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Title: Life and destiny
Author: Adler, Felix
Language: English
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                           LIFE AND DESTINY


                              FELIX ADLER

                               AUTHOR OF

                             WATTS & CO.,
                17 JOHNSON’S COURT, FLEET STREET, E.C.


                           s      PAGE

THE MEANING OF LIFE                 3

RELIGION                           17

IMMORTALITY                        31

MORAL IDEALS                       37

LOVE AND MARRIAGE                  53

HIGHER LIFE                        65

SPIRITUAL PROGRESS                 81


ETHICAL OUTLOOK                   105


_Dr. Felix Adler, from whose Addresses the following gems of thought are
extracted, is widely known in the United States as an impassioned
preacher, a distinguished scholar, and a leading citizen. He founded in
1876, in the City of New York, the first Ethical Society, of which he is
still the much-beloved inspirer and guide. Since that date the Ethical
Movement inaugurated by Dr. Adler has taken root in many lands, and an
International Union of Ethical Societies has been called into being, of
which he is President. According to him, the three fundamental tenets of
the Ethical Movement are “the supremacy of the moral end of life above
all other ends, the sufficiency of man for the pursuit of that end, and
the increase of moral truth to be expected from loyalty in this

_In this volume connected excerpts bearing on the more intimate side of
life, as apprehended by the author, are offered to the reader. Here Dr.
Adler reveals himself not only as some one who has explored the deeper
recesses of the human heart, but his words prove him to be of the long
line of poets and prophets who have contributed to purify and elevate

_This small work appears destined by its form and content to be a
religious and ethical classic, to be placed on the book-shelf alongside
of À Kempis’s “Imitation of Christ,” Pascal’s “Thoughts,” and Emerson’s
“Essays”. Whoever craves for self-knowledge, reveres his deeper self,
and seeks to be captain of his own soul, will feel that these pages
offer him precious and sympathetic counsel._

_In conclusion, the Publishers desire to express their grateful thanks
to Dr. Adler for permission to issue this popular edition, and to state
that they are entirely responsible for the few omissions in the text._


There are two kinds of light, the light on the hither side of the
darkness and the light beyond the darkness. We must press on through the
darkness and the terror of it if we would reach the holier light beyond.

We are here--no matter who put us here, or how we came here--to fulfil a
task. We cannot afford to go of our own volition until the last item of
our duty is discharged. We are here to make mind master of matter, soul
of sense. We do so by overriding pain, not by weakly capitulating to it.

When we are smitten by the rod of affliction do not let us sit still,
but rather get to work as fast as we can. In action lies our salvation.
But it must be remembered that only a great aim, one which remains
valid, irrespective of our private griefs, is competent in the critical
moments to put us into action and to sustain us in action.

The thought that extreme suffering is a key which unlocks life’s deepest
and truest meanings is the final rejoinder to the plea on behalf of
suicide. It is a thought which, when fully apprehended, is calculated to
give peace to every troubled soul.

The fact that there is a spiritual power in us, that is to say, a power
which testifies to the unity of our life with the life of others, which
impels us to regard others as other selves--this fact comes home to us
even more forcibly in sorrow than in joy. It is thrown into clearest
relief on the background of pain.

In the glow of achievement we are apt to be full of a false
self-importance. But in moments of weakness we realise, through
contrast, the infinitely superior strength of the power whose very
humble organs and ministers we are. It is then we come to understand
that, isolated from it, we are nothing; at one with it, identified with
it, we participate in its eternal nature, in its resistless course.

There are two terms of the series of progress which we should always
keep before us. The one is the starting-point, and the other the final
goal. The former is the cave man; the latter is the divine man. We know
in a measure what sort of being the cave man was. Instructed by
anthropologists, we know how poor and mean were the beginnings of
humanity on earth. But of that other term of progress--the goal of
progress, the divine man of whom the cave man was the germ, the first
rough draft--of the man who is to be, our notions are vague. He rises
before us, indeed, in a vision of glory, but his shape is nebulous. And
the result of progress is just this, that it makes us more and more able
to define the outlines of that shape, to draw sharply and finely the
noble lineaments of that face; that it makes us more and more able to
see the divine, the perfect man, the only begotten son of all the
spirits of the myriads of the generations of men--the man that is to be,
the perfection of our imperfection.

The perfect man has never yet appeared on earth. The perfect man is an
apparition of light and beauty rising in the boundless infinite, an
ideal to be more and more clothed with particularity. The purpose for
which we exist is to help to create the perfect man, to incarnate him
more and more in ourselves and in others.

That the lofty form of man may be wholly disengaged from the
encompassing clay, that the traces of our bestial ancestry may be wholly
purged from our nature, that our spirits may stand erect as our bodies
already do--this, I think, is the end for which we exist.

Every man, however humble, is worthy of reverence because, in his
limited sphere, he can be a beneficent, forward-working agent, he can
help a little to create the perfect man. Every child is a possible
avatar of the more perfect man. On every child the whole past lays its
burdens, and of the outcome of its life the whole future is expectant.

The way to overcome dejection is to energise our nature vigorously. An
eminent physician is quoted as saying: “I firmly believe that one-half
of the confirmed invalids could be cured of their maladies if they were
compelled to live busy and active lives, and had no time to fret over
their miseries. The will has a wonderfully strong and direct influence
over the body. Good work is the safeguard of health. The way to live
well is to work well.” If this be true, even when the cause of the
dejection is corporeal, how much more likely is it to be true where the
cause is seated in the mind.

In cases of bereavement, what is it that can enable a man to weather the
hurricane of grief which is apt to descend upon the soul immediately
after a great loss; and what can enable him to live through the dead
calm which is apt to succeed that first whirlwind of passionate
desolation? It is the thought that the fight must still go on, because
there are issues of infinite worth at stake; and that, though wounded
and crippled, he must still bear his part in the fight until the end.

For singleness of purpose, I plead. This alone can give strength to our
will, coherence to our life. Without it we drift; with it we steer. Let
us have before us, whatever we do, a sovereign aim, but let us also make
sure that it be a worthy aim, one that will purge the clay from our
eyes, from our lips, from our brains, from our hearts.

A great man helps us by the standard which he erects. He never really is
level with his own standard, and yet we do not therefore reject him. He
helps us by what he earnestly tries for, and by what he suggests to us
that we should try for; he helps us, not so much by what he achieves,
as by what he reveals, by the insight which he gives us into the nature
of good.

So far as the forward movement of the human race is concerned, it is the
effort that counts, and not the attainment; the realm of time and space
can never be the scene of complete realisation. The reward of the effort
is the wider outlook upon the ultimate aim; the truer estimate of its
character as infinite, and, along with this, the recognition of that
infiniteness of our own nature which enables us to conceive of and
aspire to such an aim.

Joy is a light which those who possess are bound to keep burning
brightly for the sake of others as well as for their own sake. Every
pure joy in the world is so much pure gain.

Cold and bare is youth without the glow of generous idealism.
Contemptible is middle age without the sense of definite attachments
and the willing acceptance of limitations. And ungracious and unlovely
is old age if it be not illumined by the light of contemplation, if it
be not fruitful in counsel.

Every vocation, even the lowliest, which we pursue in a spirit of entire
sincerity, is a means of acquiring culture. The artisan may be, in his
way, as truly a cultivated man as the artist or the scholar, for by
culture I understand insight gained into all manner of activities
through genuineness and thoroughness in one. To be cultivated is to see
things in their relations.

Our daily avocation, whatever it be, if we cling to it closely enough,
is sure to engender in us a new respect for reality, a new humility.

To put forth power in such a way as to be provocative of power in
others is the ethical aim that should guide men in all vocations and in
all their relations.

This fair earth, with its fir-clad hills, its snowy mountains, its
sparkling seas, its azure vaults, and the holy light of the stars, is
but a painted screen behind which lurks the true reality.

The beauty of this earth and all that is precious and great in this
human life of ours is but a hint and a suggestion of an eternal
fairness, an eternal rightness.

We need something of the virility of stoicism to grapple with the
difficulties of life; we need to cultivate a large patience; an humble
spirit that teaches us to be prepared for every loss, and to welcome
every joy as an unlooked-for gain. There are a thousand pleasures in
little things which we, with the petulance of children, daily spurn,
because we cannot have all we ask for.

The question, Is life worth living? implies a species of blasphemy. The
right question to ask is: Am I worthy of living? If I am not, I can make
myself so. That is always in my power.

At bottom, the world is to be interpreted in terms of joy, but of a joy
that includes all the pain, includes it and transforms it and transcends

The Light of the World is a light that is saturated with the darkness
which it has overcome and transfigured.


Religion is a wizard, a sibyl. She faces the wreck of worlds, and
prophesies restoration. She faces a sky blood-red with sunset colours
that deepen into darkness, and prophesies dawn. She faces death, and
prophesies life.

Religion has been so eager to supply us with information concerning the
universe outside of us, its origin and its destiny, because our life is
linked with that of the universe, and our destiny is dependent on the
destiny of the universe.

The dependence of man on outside forces which he cannot control is the
point of departure of religion.

It is the moral element contained in it that alone gives value and
dignity to a religion, and only in so far as its teachings serve to
stimulate and purify our moral aspirations does it deserve to retain its
ascendency over mankind.

“There is a time to act for the Lord by breaking his commandments” was a
saying current among the ancient Hebrews. This means there is a time to
act for religion by protesting against what passes for religion; there
is a time to prepare the way for a larger morality by shattering the
narrow forms of dogma whereby the progress of morality is hindered.

Ethical religion can be real only to those who are engaged in ceaseless
efforts at moral improvement. By moving upward we acquire faith in an
upward movement, without limit.

The symbols of religion are ciphers of which the key is to be found in
moral experience. It is in vain we pore over the ciphers unless we
possess the key.

To understand the meaning of a great religious teacher we must find in
our own life experiences somewhat akin to his. To selfish, unprincipled
persons whose heart is wholly set on worldly ends, what meaning, for
instance, can such utterances have as these? “You must become like
little children if you would possess the kingdom of heaven;” “You must
be willing to lose your life in order to save it;” “If you would be
first you must consent to be last.” To the worldly-minded such words
convey no sense whatever; they are, in fact, rank absurdity.

Of the origin of things we know nothing, and can know nothing.
Perfection does not reveal itself to us as existent in the beginning;
but as something that ought to be, something new which we are to help
create. Somehow the secret of the universe is hidden in our breast.
Somehow the destinies of the universe depend upon our exertions.

The Infinite, from which comes the impulse that leads us to activity, is
not the highest Reason, but higher than reason; not the highest
Goodness, but higher than goodness.

There is a city to be built, the plan of which we carry in our heads, in
our hearts. Countless generations have already toiled at the building of
it. The effort to aid in completing it takes, with us, the place of
prayer. In this sense we say, “_Laborare est orare_.”

The essential faith is the product of effort and is sustained and
clarified by effort.

What is the way to get a religion? We know, at all events, what cannot
be the way. It cannot be to prostrate our intellects before the throne
of authority; to bind the Samson within us, the human mind, and deliver
him into the hands of the Philistines; to abjure our reason. Whatever
religion we adopt must be consistent with the truths with which
we have been enriched at the hands of science. It may be
ultra-scientific--indeed, it must be; but it may not be anti-scientific.

But, on the other hand, we need to be equally warned against expecting
too much from the intellect. One cannot attain religion merely by
trying, in his closet, to think out the problems of the universe.

It is a mistake to approach the subject of religion from the point of
view of philosophy. All really religious persons declare that religion
is, primarily, a matter of experience. We must get a certain kind of
experience, and then philosophic thinking will be of use to us in
explicating what is implicated in that experience. But we must get the
experience first.

The undulatory theory would not help any one to know what light is who
had never seen light, and the chemical formula for water would not help
any one to know what water is who had never tasted it. To know light one
must see it; to know water one must taste it. So, too, philosophy will
not help any one to know what religion is.

The experience of religion is not reserved for the initiated and elect,
it is accessible to every one who chooses to have it.

The experience to which I refer is essentially moral experience. It may
be described as a sense of subjection to imperious impulses which urge
our finite nature toward infinite issues; a sense of propulsions which
we can resist, but not disown; a sense of a power greater than
ourselves, with which, nevertheless, in essence we are one; a sense, in
times of moral stress, of channels opened by persistent effort, which
let in a flood of rejuvenating energy and put us in command of
unsuspected moral resources; a sense, finally, of the complicity of our
life with the life of others, of living in them in no merely
metaphorical signification of the word; of unity with all spiritual
being whatsoever.

A religion which is to satisfy us must be a religion of progress. But we
must be progressive ourselves if we are to have faith in progress. We
must be constantly developing if we are to have faith in unbounded
further development. And especially we must be progressing in a moral

We should acquire the habit of taking stock from time to time of our
moral possessions, of keeping faithful count of our net gains and
losses. Do we, for instance, possess more fortitude, or less, in
encountering unavoidable pain? Are we in better or worse control of our
passions, of our tempers? Alas, that many of us, as we grow older,
become more fretful and irascible, a greater trial and burden to our
surroundings. Are we more broadly charitable in our judgment of others;
more ready to make allowance for their faults, to bear with their
shortcomings? Are we more or are we less devoted to the public ends of
humanity? Does our idealism turn out to have been a mere ebullition of
optimistic youth, a mere flash in the pan? Or does it grow wiser and
warmer with the years? Does it burn with a steadier glow? Are we
learning resignation, renunciation? It is by an honest answer given to
such questions as these that we may decide whether we are progressing or

When we have reached a certain stage of culture, genuine gratitude and
the verbal expression of it are inconsistent. We can say thanks for the
little gifts, the lesser favours. But when the gift is great, and the
debt exceeding heavy, when we are full to overflowing with gratitude,
then the words die upon our lips, and the only way to show our gratitude
is by the use we make of the benefits we receive. For this reason, among
others, the verbal expression of thanks to the Infinite Being in the
form of prayer has always seemed to me a kind of desecration.

Because the Hebrew view of life is essentially the ethical view,
therefore we still go back to the writings in which this view was first
promulgated, and delight in them, as we do in no other scriptures in the

All of us are spiritually the heirs of the Hebrew prophets, including
among them Jesus, the greatest of their number.

There are moral traits in all religions, but, as a rule, they are
subordinated. Morality is subordinated to _beauty_ and _harmony_ in the
Greek ideal. It is the accompaniment and consequence of _order_ in the
Confucian scheme. It is but one form of the _brightness_ of things, as
opposed to darkness and evil, in Zoroastrianism. But to the Hebrew
thought, moral excellence is the supreme excellence to which every
other species of excellence is tributary.

The Hebrew religion and its descendants are the only ethical religions,
strictly speaking, because in the Hebrew religion the moral element is
constitutive and sovereign.

That the moral “ought” cannot be explained as the product of physical
causation, is the greatest contribution which the Hebrew people have
made to the religious and moral history of mankind.

A new Easter Day will come for mankind, when a race of religious
teachers shall arise, who will be consecrated for their work by a more
adequate training and a deeper moral enthusiasm, whose word will again
be mighty as of old to inform the conscience of nations, and who shall
carry the glad tidings of a higher life to the ends of the earth.


The dead are not dead if we have loved them truly. In our own lives we
can give them a kind of immortality. Let us arise and take up the work
they have left unfinished, and preserve intact the treasures they have
won, and round out, if possible, the circuit of their being to the
fulness of an ampler orbit in our own.

They that have left us are not afar; their presence is near and real, a
silent and august companionship. In still hours of meditation, in the
stress of action, in the midst of trials and temptations, we hear their
voices whispering words of cheer or warning, and our deeds are, in a
sense, their deeds, and our lives their lives.

So does the light of other days still shine in the bright-hued flowers
that clothe our fields. So do they who have long since been gathered
into the silent city of the dead still live in the deeds we do for their
sake, in the earnest effort we put forth toward greater rectitude,
patience, purity, under the influence of their unforgettable memories.

The conservation of moral energy is in a certain sense as true as the
conservation of mechanical energy. We are not dust merely that returns
to dust; we are not summer flies that bask in the sunshine of a passing
day; we are not bounded in our influence by the narrow boundary of our

In aspiring to noble ends, the soul takes on something of the greatness
of that which it truly admires.

The evident disparity between virtue and happiness has led men to take
refuge in the thought of compensation hereafter, and the necessity of a
future state in which the good shall be rewarded and the evil punished
has been deduced from the very inequities and moral inconsistencies of
our present experience. The argument in this specific form is worthless,
but it is based, nevertheless, upon a capital truth--the truth, namely,
that our moral ideal is destined to be realised, though we may not know
_how_ it will be realised.

Vast possibilities suggest themselves to us of an order of existence
wholly different from all that we have ever known; a gleam reaches the
eye, as it were, from a far celestial land, and the crimson dawn of a
Sun of Truth appears, to which the splendours of our earthly mornings
are as obscurity.


As the light of morning strikes now one peak and then another, some
being illuminated while others are in the shadow, so the light of the
essential moral principle shines now upon one duty and then upon
another, while others are in the shadow.

Let us religiously set apart times and seasons in which to gather up the
fruits of action and to experience the reactions which should follow on
action. The most valuable of these fruits is just the intensified
appreciation of the disparity existing between our achievements and the
goal, the clearer vision of the goal, the sublimer and truer conception
of it.

In order to join vigorously in the moral work of the world I must
believe that somehow the best I can accomplish will endure, will leave
its trace on things, will aid the final consummation.

What is needed above all else, is to find a more secure basis for
morality, now that the theological basis has slipped away; to rekindle
the belief in the ideal, to bring into new prominence the unchanging
truths, and to discover the new truths which men need for their moral

It is said that we live in order to make the world better, but this
phrase is ambiguous. Often it is used as referring merely to an increase
of the sum of human pleasure. And this would be an aim by no means
comparable in grandeur and sublimity to that which Religion in the past
has set up.

We live to unfold the unmanifested potentialities of the universe, so
far as they are latent in man, who, as far as we know, is the highest
product of the universe. We live to enhance mentality and morality in
the world. A developed mentality and morality will of itself cure the
evils of poverty, and ignorance and sin. It may bring pleasure in its
train, or may not bring it--it matters not. Not the fool’s paradise of
ease and enjoyment, but the heightened mentality and morality is the

The moral ideal in its simplicity is all-sufficient. Its native charm
can derive no added splendour from the drapery of creeds. Its severe
beauty needs no factitious embellishment of myth and legend. The
conviction that this is so has long been cherished by solitary thinkers.
We should endeavour to spread it among the people. The hope of a perfect
society is entertained vaguely. We should seek to lift it into the
clear light of consciousness as the one commanding end of human
endeavour, the supreme object of reverence and devotion.

Day by day there are triumphs to be won over the passion that stirs in
our breasts; over the rising anger that sears our lips; over the
turpitudes that defile our hearts; over the spirit of impatience and
mutiny that threatens the authority of our reason. By such triumphs we
are raised above our baser selves, and the fire which consumes our
grosser natures, like the flaming chariot of Elijah, bears us living
into a higher world.

To those who take part with all their heart and all their might in the
struggle, there comes, at last, a great peace, a purified gladness.
Gladness, in some instances, springs from a natural buoyancy of
temperament, and is quite consistent with shallowness and
superficiality of character. In other cases it is coincident with the
swift flow of the currents of the blood, and ceases when the stream
flows more slowly and begins to stagnate. Or it is due to gifts which an
exceptional good fortune showers into the laps of favoured mortals.
Gladness of this sort comes with happiness and departs with it.

But the purified gladness of which I speak is not dependent on these
accidents. It is the mark of the ripest wisdom, and is based on the
conviction, gained through experience, that life is worth living, that
the victory is assured, and that the ends we pursue are of such
excellence as to be incapable of ultimate defeat.

The moral ideal would embrace the whole of life. In its sight nothing is
petty or indifferent. It touches the veriest trifles and turns them
into shining gold. We are royal by virtue of it, and like the kings in
the fairy tale, we may never lay aside our crowns.

The moral order never is, but is ever becoming. It grows with our

We call him a hero who maintains himself, single-handed, against
superior numbers. We call him a master-horseman who sits a fiery and
vicious steed, guiding him at will. And in like manner, we call him a
moral hero who conquers the enemies within his own breast--and we admire
and revere the soul which can ride its own passions and force them into
obedience to the dictates of reason.

The legend of St. Christopher, who undertook to carry the Christ-child
on his shoulders across a stream, is applicable in a wider sense to us
all. The deeper he entered into the water the heavier became the burden
which he had assumed so lightly in the beginning, until it pressed upon
him like a mountain, and he threatened to succumb beneath its weight.
Such likewise is the case of him who, in the sanguine days of youth, has
assumed the moral task of reforming himself, or others. The deeper he
enters into the stream of life the heavier becomes the burden, and there
is no salvation for him unless his strength increases in proportion as
the load increases.

Do not court temptation. You cannot know whether you will be strong
enough to resist it. But prepare yourself to deal valiantly with those
temptations that are sure to come to you unsought, especially if you are
a “live” man.

The marks of evil upon the soul are like the lines left by the glaciers
of the ice-age on the ancient rocks. The glaciers have retreated, the
ice-age has past, a warmer climate has succeeded, but the marks remain.

Morality does not mope in corners, is not sour or gloomy. It loves to
convert our meanest wants into golden occasions for fellowship and happy

The moral ideal seeks to influence and interpenetrate the most ordinary
affairs of private life.

The moral view of politics teaches us to hold the idea of country
superior to the utilities of party, to exact worthiness of public
servants, and to place the common good above the interests of particular

The moral view of commerce bids the merchant put conscience into his
wares and dealings and keep steadily in sight the larger purposes of
human welfare.

The moral view of the professions leads their representatives to
subordinate the claims of ambition and of material gain to the enduring
interests of science, of justice, and to all the permanent social
interests that are confided to their keeping.

The purpose of man’s life is not happiness, but worthiness. Happiness
may come as an accessory; we dare never make it the end.

We shall find men who are in the best sense successful in the miserable
tenements of the poor.

An exalted type of morality is achieved by him who renounces in spirit
the opportunities which he lacks, who accepts his limitations, and who,
under the most trying circumstances, does not remit his efforts, no
matter how insignificant may be their result, to promote the good.

An exalted type of morality is displayed by aged men who, with weakened
frames and energies impaired, are yet resolved to die in harness.

An exalted type of morality is displayed by those who, cut off from the
opportunities of culture, and from most of the pleasures and comforts of
existence, yet nourish, under the ashes of disappointed hopes, the
feeblest remaining spark of the spiritual life, because they believe it
to be a spark from an imperishable fire, even from that undying flame
which burns at the heart of things, and which is destined to grow
brighter and brighter as time rolls on.

There was once a teacher who had many pupils. Some of these he placed in
a garden and bade them cultivate flowers, and said to them: “Fail not to
bring your fairest flowers to me.” But they became so much absorbed in
the delights of the garden, as to forget entirely the master who had
placed them there.

Others of his pupils he admitted to his library, and gave them access to
many volumes rich in learning, and bade them ponder these stores of
wisdom and bring the fruit of their reflections to him. But they also
became wholly engrossed in their occupations.

And, again, there was a third company of pupils, whom he selected to be
the dispensers of the hospitalities of his household. He bade them
preside over his feasts, and entertain the guests as they arrive--“Only
forget not,” he said, “to bring the guests at last to me.” But these,
too, became wholly interested in their pleasures, and forgot the master
and his charge.

But there were other pupils, whom, for an inscrutable reason, the master
appointed to the hardest sort of service. He made them door-keepers to
admit others into the festive halls, while they themselves were
compelled to remain without in the cold. He commanded them to be hewers
of wood and drawers of water, and to carry heavy burdens all day long.
But, behold! these poor drudges constantly thought of him. The very
repulsiveness of their tasks made them think of him. Loyalty to their
master alone kept them faithful to their tasks. And so those who seemed
at the greatest distance from him were really nearest to him in their
thoughts. They could bring him, it is true, neither flower nor book,
they could only tell him of the heavy loads they had borne, of the hard
labour they had performed in the service of his entire household, and
of their implicit obedience to his will.

In the great Academies of the Middle Ages there were four faculties,
from at least one of which a student must graduate before he could claim
the title of Doctor, or “Learned One.” So likewise in the great
university of life there are four faculties, each having at its head a
great professor. The name of one professor is Poverty; of another,
Sickness; of another, Sorrow; of the last, Sin. In one of these
faculties we must be inscribed; the searching examination of one of
these teachers we must pass before we can obtain our degree as Learned
in the Art of Life.

Of most persons it may, perhaps, be said, without exaggeration, that
they have a feeling of duty rather than a knowledge of it. When a
certain situation presents itself they tend to act in a certain way,
but they cannot clearly state the principle or rule which determines
their action. The business of the moral teacher is to clarify, to
classify, and to enrich the content of the conscience.

We cannot demonstrate the existence of disinterested motives. The sole
fact that we demand unselfishness in action assures us that the standard
of enlightened self-interest is false. And, indeed, if we consult the
opinions of men where they are least likely to be warped by sophistry,
we shall find that disinterestedness is the universal criterion by which
moral worth is measured. If we suspect the motive we condemn the act.


Love is the expansion of two natures in such fashion that each includes
the other, each is enriched by the other.

Love is an echo in the feelings of a unity subsisting between two
persons which is founded both on likeness and on complementary
differences. Without the likeness there would be no attraction; without
the challenge of the complementary differences there could not be the
closer interweaving and the inextinguishable mutual interest which is
the characteristic of all deeper relationships.

In the companionship of marriage our worth is tested. In that close and
intimate relationship faults are inexorably laid bare, and virtues
become doubly resplendent.

The fairest tribute that can be paid to a wife by a husband is that the
love she inspires becomes stronger and deeper in the lapse of time; that
nearness serves to heighten respect, and familiarity to enhance
affection; and that each year, as it passes, but adds another gem to her
crown as a wife and mother.

The spiritual quality of love transfigures the passions, transforms the
fleeting fancy into a constant and growing attachment, the passing
romance into a story without end the interest of which never flags.
Unity of life is the keynote of love; the continuous blending of two
into one lends to love its noble beauty, its divine significance.

Marriage is fundamentally holy because it is the foundation of homes.
All the humanities have their origin in the home. All the virtues draw
from it their nourishment. The human race is distinguished from the rest
of the creation by the possession of homes.

The home is not built of brick and stone. It is a “temple not raised
with hands.” A man may live in a palace, furnished with all that wealth
can afford or luxury invent. He may have at his command books, servants,
troops of friends, and yet there may be a void in his life which tells
him that he is homeless.

And what is the home feeling--if we consider the partners of the wedded
life for a moment, apart from their offspring? It is the blessed sense
of safety that comes to him who feels that he is rooted in another’s
affection, the sense of mutual protection, of mutual care and kindness,
in sickness and in health, in good and in evil fortune, in life and
close to the gates of death. Where the wife is, there is the home; and
where the husband is, on land or sea. Oh, what a glad feeling it is to
have one’s own hearth! As the hearth gives warmth to the house, so
marriage supplies an undiminishing inner warmth to those who partake of
its blessings in the right spirit.

Marriage is the fountain upon which the tree of humanity depends for its
life. If the fountain be pure, the tree will flourish and bear wholesome
fruit. If the fountain be poisoned the tree must perish.

The god of Love is a jealous god. This does not mean that love should be
wholly concentrated upon one person, but rather that the god of Love is
jealous of anything in the heart that is not akin to love--jealous of
hate, jealous of meanness, jealous of low and sordid aims.

The love of husband and wife is an epitome of every other kind of love.
There is included in it something of the same feeling that brothers and
sisters entertain for each other. There is a maternal element in the
wife’s feeling for the husband, and something of the fatherly spirit in
the attitude of the husband toward the wife. And there is besides
something more which is inexplicable and ineffable.

There are fundamental differences which distinguish the sexes in their
mental and moral make-up, and marriage is designed to bring about the
correlation of these differences, the mutual adaptation and
reconciliation of them in a higher unity.

The present tendency to accentuate the qualities in which the sexes are
alike is a temporary reaction against unjust discrimination in the past
in favour of men. The differences are more important than the
similarities, and ere long they will again receive the preponderant
attention which is due to them.

One of the finest results of the further development of the human race
will be the increasing differentiation of the sexes, leading to ever
new, ever more complex, ever more exquisite reciprocal adjustments in
the organisation of the wedded life.

The modern advocates of the elevation of women seem to be fundamentally
mistaken in so far as they rely on the use of force--political or
economic--for the attainment of their ends. Woman has secured her
elevation in the past, and has immensely contributed toward moralising
the human race, by precisely the opposite method; namely, by teaching
men that there are certain rights which they must respect, though these
rights cannot be enforced; that there are certain rights which men must
respect on penalty of losing their self-respect.

It is the voice of tradition, the voice of humanity, the conscience of
mankind pregnant with implicit truths which it may be impossible ever to
make wholly explicit, that speaks from the lips of wives and mothers.

This I take to be the service which the wife can render the husband--she
teaches him to submit to a law which is not sanctioned by force; and, in
matters of the intellect, as well as of the character, she is his critic
and his guide--not by a formulated code, but by the things she approves
of or disapproves of.

The wife is just the one woman in the world who best performs for her
husband these high offices. She helps him to decipher his soul, to gain
self-knowledge--the most difficult kind of knowledge, to discover what
qualities are latent in him; she reads his defects in the light of his
possible excellence; she spurs him on to his best performance; sustains
him by her faith when he fails; and when he succeeds and gains the
world’s applause helps him to rate it at its proper worth, and to aspire
toward aims that rise beyond the common approbation. And the husband, in
turn, renders a corresponding service to the wife.

Only those who are linked together in the lifelong companionship of
monogamic marriage can thus serve one another. Apart from the interests
of offspring, the spiritual interests of the wedded pair themselves
demand that the union shall be a permanent one.

We are not married on our wedding-day; on that day we do but begin to be
married. The true marriage is an endless process, the perpetual
interlinking of two souls while life lasts.

A woman should be a home-keeper, but she should also go out from her
home. She should take part in the struggle of society to create new and
better conditions in politics, in social life, in religion. The real
home-keeper should be in touch with the larger life of the world, in
order that she may bring the breath of larger interests into her life,
in order that she may open the windows of her house and let in the fresh
breezes of the intellectual world around her. The finest, highest
conception of a modern mother is that of one who trains the growing
generation to take their places in the new world which is at present in
the making, and how can she do this unless she herself carries the new
world in her heart, is receptive to the great ideas that are struggling
to be, and comprehends them?

Marriage is an estate in which we seek to help each other to solve the
total problem of our lives. The attraction of the sexes, seen in the
light of this conception, is glorified and transfigured. Marriage is an
estate in which we charge ourselves, not only with the comfort and the
happiness of another, but with the problem of the total spiritual
destiny of another. And because we live in our influence, because our
life is strongest and purest where our influence is most penetrating,
therefore in the estate of marriage it is possible for us to attain a
depth of spiritual development such as can be achieved in no other human
relationship whatsoever.


Let us earnestly strive to ascertain in what direction our strength
lies, in order that we may become still stronger, and at what points we
are weak, in order that we may fortify them, to the end that we may
obey, however partially, the greatest of the commandments, “Be ye
therefore perfect.”

In general, the higher life may be characterised as the life which
postpones the private to the public good, which is swayed by principles
rather than impulses, and which bears testimony to the reality of the
supreme ideals.

Man is like a tree, with the mighty trunk of intellect, the spreading
branches of imagination, and the roots of the lower instincts that bind
him to the earth. The moral life, however, is the fruit he bears; in it
his true nature is revealed.

It is the prerogative of man that he need not blindly follow the law of
his natural being, but is himself the author of a higher moral law, and
creates it even in acting it out.

The higher life includes not only such virtues as personal purity,
truthfulness, and a forgiving spirit toward enemies, but also embraces
our obligations toward the State. No one can be, in the full sense, a
good man who is not a good citizen.

There is a difficulty in the way of teaching the higher life, due to the
fact that only those who have begun to lead it can understand the
meaning of it. Nevertheless, all men can be induced to begin to lead it.
Though they seem blind, their eyes can be opened so as to see. Deep
down in every human heart is the seed of a diviner life, which only
needs the quickening influence of right conditions to germinate.

It may be impossible for a man by merely willing it to add wings to his
body, but it is possible for any man, by merely willing it, to add wings
to his soul. This perennial miracle of the moral nature is capable of
happening at any time.

An ideal is a port toward which we resolve to steer. We may not reach
it. The mere fact that our goal is definitely located does not suffice
to conduct us thither. But surely we shall thus stand a better chance of
making port in the end than if we drift about aimlessly, the sport of
winds and tides, without having decided in our own minds in what
direction we ought to bend our course.

The moral law is the expression of our inmost nature, and when we live
in consonance with it we feel that we are living out our true being.

The authority of conscience is founded on human nature itself. The
imperative, which we cannot disown, comes from within. The distinction
between right and wrong is as aboriginal as that between the true and
the false. But whence shall we derive the strength to do the right and
shun the wrong? What feelings are there which, in default of the hope of
happiness and the fear of punishment in another world, and apart from
the penalties of human legislation, shall sustain us in the struggle
against evil? I believe that the fear of self-condemnation and the
desire for self-respect can, by appropriate training, be so
strengthened as to serve our purpose. For what man is there among all
our friends and acquaintances whose opinion we have reason so greatly to
dread as the opinion of the man within the man--our own self, namely,
sitting in judgment upon us?

Among those who acknowledge the obligation of the moral law there are
two classes--the class of moral bondmen and the class of moral freemen.
Among the former belong those who recognise the particular moral
commandments, but fail to recognise the unifying principle from which
they flow; who see the satisfactions of which morality deprives them and
the pains which it imposes, but fail to see the superior satisfactions
to which obedience opens the way, and the ineffable peace that comes
after the pain. Duty is a burden and a bondage to those who fix their
attention only upon the negative aspect of it. It is a source of
exaltation, despite the sufferings with which it is complicated, to
those who firmly keep in view the positive aspect of it.

The “great occasions,” morally speaking, are those that add to our
strength by the very magnitude of the calls they make upon us, and that
flatter our self-esteem by the dramatic incidents which are apt, at such
critical moments, to attend the struggle against evil; but it cannot be
too forcibly stated that the higher life, as a rule, must be led on the
level of everyday existence, where the temptations to be resisted are
commonplace and the petty details of duty seem to deprive the effort we
put forth of all dignity and grandeur. Whether, under such
circumstances, we shall be able to save our souls alive depends
entirely on our point of view, on our bearing in mind that no detail of
conduct is petty if it serves to exemplify a great principle.

In seeking for the highest good I cannot separate my quest so far as it
concerns myself from the same quest so far as it concerns others. On the
way to the highest goal I must take my fellow-beings with me. For the
higher life--the germ of which exists in every man--is adequately
represented by no man. The one represents more adequately some
particular aspect of it, another a different aspect of it. It follows,
therefore, that no one can love the higher life unless he seeks to
promote it in others as well as in himself. All the so-called duties
flow from the principle of the unity and interdependence of humanity in
their effort toward the attainment of their goal.

The supreme ethical rule may be stated as follows: So act as to elicit
the latent spiritual possibilities in others, and thereby in thyself.
The aim definitely in view should be to influence others. Not one’s own
interests, not even one’s own spiritual interests, should be in the
foreground of consciousness. Yet we can in no wise draw out what is best
in others without constantly renewing ourselves, making ourselves better
fitted to exercise regenerative influence, and thus attaining the
highest mental and moral growth of which we are capable. This, it seems
to me, is the true harmonising of opposites, this the point of view that
reconciles the ever-conflicting claims of individualism and altruism.
Not the good of self as a thing apart is the aim, nor the good of others
as a thing apart, but a higher, overarching good, to promote which is
alike the highest good of self and others.

As light is light when it strikes on objects, so life is life when it
smites on other life. We live truly in our radiations. We grow and
develop in proportion as we help others to grow and develop.

The question of paramount importance, therefore, to be kept ever before
the mind, is this: How, as a matter of fact, am I influencing the
persons with whom I am in contact? How, as an employer, am I influencing
my employés? How, as a citizen, am I influencing my fellow-citizens? How
does the effect of my personality tell on wife and children and friends?
Am I supremely interested in getting the best results out of the people
with whom I am in touch? Am I helping them to make the most of

There are certain obvious marks of the higher life. One is Purity. This
does not mean that the senses shall be suppressed, but that the inferior
part of our nature shall be taken up into the superior, the senses
wedded to the soul.

A second mark of the higher life is Serenity, and there is perhaps no
surer sign by which exalted natures can be known. To be serene under all
circumstances whatsoever, even in moments of imminent peril, in times of
sudden reversal of fortune, of grievous personal loss or of public
calamity, is the unmistakable badge of moral ripeness. But is it
possible to preserve one’s serenity in the supreme trials of life? It is
possible, I should answer, if we have formed the habit of asking on
every occasion. What is it right to do now? The habit of fixing our
attention on how we are to conduct ourselves, on what, in a given
situation and quite apart from our feelings, it is right to do, steadies
the pulse, clears the eye and preserves the tranquillity of the soul.
And there is always something which it is right to do, even in the most
desperate circumstances, if it be only to maintain our dignity as human
beings, to keep up the drooping spirits of those around us, and to
assist our weaker brethren to the last.

Another token of the higher life, which indeed is implied in the former,
is the habit of taking what is called an objective or Impersonal View of
our personal relations. This is especially important as helpful to
self-control. We are at best but tyros in the art of living, so long as
we continue to give effect in our dealings with others to our mere
personal antipathies and sympathies. As soon as we learn to speak and
act medicinally, not from personal resentment or under the impulse of
personal attraction, but with a view to promoting just the good in
others, the whole atmosphere in which we breathe changes; a kind of
perpetual sunshine illuminates our inner world, the clouds of hate and
the mists of passionate feeling dissolve and peace reigns within the
borders of the soul.

A fourth token of the higher life is Wisdom. Wisdom is situated at the
junction of the intellectual and the moral faculties. It consists in the
highest use of the intellect for the discernment of the largest moral
interests of humanity. It is the most perfect willingness to do the
right combined with the utmost attainable knowledge of what is right,
and with the clearest perception of what, in a given situation, is
feasible. Wisdom is the attribute of one who works toward the most
sublime ends imaginable, but who at the same time realises the
limitations due to existing conditions and who, free from impatience at
the unavoidable imperfections of man’s estate, seeks to achieve the
better as a step leading in the direction of the best. Wisdom consists
in working for the better from the love of the best. The world is full
of reformers who thunder at the gates of the Impossible, seeking to
force an entrance, and who injure their causes, as well as themselves,
by the inevitable reaction which ensues when their schemes are found to
be impracticable. Wisdom teaches that it is possible to lead the higher
life, even now.

But the crowning grace of all is Humility, in the sense in which it
implies and presupposes dignity. Dignity is based upon the
consciousness of a divine element in human nature, of an infinite aim, a
boundless destiny. Humbleness is due to a sense of the incalculable
distance which still separates us from the goal. These two, inseparably
combined, are the invariable accompaniment of moral greatness wherever
met with. Self-righteousness and a cynical contempt of human nature on
the other hand are the two chief enemies of moral progress. These
monsters must be slain if we would hope to continue in the upward path.

The higher life cannot be attained without rigorous self-discipline, and
self-discipline always involves pain, but the end in view is worthy of
the sufferings we are called upon to endure, the prize is worthy of the
price exacted of us.


By what sort of experience are we led to the conviction that spirit
exists? On the whole, by searching, painful experience. The rose
Religion grows on a thorn-bush, and we must not be afraid to have our
fingers lacerated by the thorns if we would pluck the rose. For
instance, a person who endures great bodily suffering with fortitude
will discover that there is something in him which physical agony cannot
overcome, something not of the senses, which all the assaults of the
senses are powerless to affect.

Why in this world of ours there should be so much suffering no one
knows. But this we know; that, evil existing, the world being such as
it is, we can win from evil, if we choose, an inestimable good,
namely--the conviction that there is in us a power not of the senses,
the conviction that spirit exists, and exists in us.

A sceptic may say that in a world ideally conceivable we might have
secured this precious conviction without the necessity of undergoing the
ordeal of pain. To which the reply is: that in a world ideally
conceivable what he says may be true; but in the world as it is, with
which alone we are concerned, we have ample cause for gratitude that we
can turn suffering to such far-reaching account, that we can distil from
the bitter root this divine elixir; that by manfully bearing the pains
of the senses, inexplicable though they be, we are able to gain the
certainty that a power not born of the senses exists in us, operates in
us. It is this effect of pain that accounts for the serenity and peace
of many patient sufferers, a peace and a serenity which surround their
bed of misery with a kind of halo.

The same is true of moral pain. The experience of Guilt, for instance,
if it leads us to pitilessly honest self-scrutiny and self-judgment,
will at the last disclose the marvellous fact that even in the most
desperate cases there remains a part of our nature unspoiled by the
guilt. We become aware of a power within us, to slough off the guilt as
the serpent sloughs off its skin; to triumph over the evil we have done
as well as over the evils we suffer. We realise that there is in us a
fount of inexhaustible moral rejuvenation.

What, then, are the compensations of Sin? In the first place, a truer
insight into the moral order of the universe, a more adequate
realisation of the authority of those holy ordinances against which we
have offended; and then the conviction that the soul can ever rise again
by its own efforts. The tree may fall, but the root remains
indestructible; the spring of moral endeavour may appear to be dried up,
but there are hidden subterranean streams from which it can ever be fed

The stages of the progress of mankind may be compared to a series of
mountain ranges. First the foothills, then the higher hills, then
mountain range on mountain range beyond them. As we gain the loftier
eminences we see the snowy summits before us, touched by the light of
the moral ideal, transforming themselves before our eyes into what
appear to be the ramparts and the spires of the Golden City. We climb
still higher, and the vision travels with us, lighting on the next
succeeding range. And so, on and on, as we ascend.

We live in our activities, in our influence. The success or failure of
life is determined, not by our conditions, but by the effort we put
forth despite our conditions. A man who, though himself poor, labours to
keep alive the higher life in his fellows, to inspire them with the
courage to strive for the better, and with patience to bear the evils
which are for the time being unavoidable, is a spiritual hero and a
nobler benefactor than many of the so-called benefactors who invade the

When human nature fights in the last ditch, when it is pressed against
the wall, when the clutch of circumstances is about its throat and
threatens to choke it, then human nature, by way of reaction, exhibits a
power which we call spiritual. This is rarely displayed in prosperous
circumstances. It is the compensation of adversity that it elicits in
manifold ways this spiritual power and makes man’s life in a spiritual
sense a success.


Let the Stoics say what they will, so long as we remain human we shall
always open our breasts to those warm loves that make the sweetness of
existence, if also they make its bitterest pain.

It is written that the last enemy to be vanquished is death. We should
begin early in life to vanquish this enemy by obliterating every trace
of the fear of death from our minds. Then can we turn to life and fill
the whole horizon of our souls with it, turn with added zest to all the
serious tasks which it imposes and to the pure delights which here and
there it affords.

There are hours of great loneliness, when the frost of desolation
penetrates into the very soul, when the burden seems too heavy to bear,
and the draught of life too bitter to swallow. But the very keenness of
the ordeal begets the strength to bear it, and patience and unselfish
resignation will come as with the rustling of angel’s wings to dry our
scalding tears.

When the light of the sun shines through a prism it is broken into
beautiful colours, and when the prism is shattered, still the light
remains. So does the light of life shine resplendent in the forms of our
friends, and so, when their forms are broken, still their life remains;
and in that life we are united with them; for the life of their life is
also our life, and we are one with them by ties indissoluble.

They say that it is a blessed relief in times of grief to shed tears.
But a more blessed relief than to shed tears is to wipe away the tears
from others’ eyes.

In hours of great sorrow we turn in vain to Nature for an inspiring
thought. We question the sleepless stars; they are cold and distant. The
winds blow, the rivers run their course, the seasons change; they are
careless of man. Only in the human world do we find an answering echo to
our needs.

The body is incapable of supporting for longer than a few brief years
the weight of the life that dwells within it. The vehicle cannot sustain
the content. The instrument falls short of the demands upon it, and
crumbles into ruins. But in its ruin it sets off, in tragic contrast,
the grandeur of the power which, for a time, employed it for its uses, a
power greater than itself, greater than any instrument, whose glory
rises above the ruins and gilds them with unearthly splendour in

We are soldiers fighting a good fight. The call that awakens us out of
despair in times of affliction is the trumpet-call of duty, summoning us
back to the battle.

The experience of progress in the past, the hope of progress toward
perfection in the future, is the redeeming feature of life; it is the
one and only solace that never fails.

It is the nature of the noble and the good and the wise that they impart
to us of their nobility and their goodness and their wisdom while they
live, making it natural for us to breathe the air they breathe and
giving us confidence in our own untested powers. And the same influence
in more ethereal fashion they continue to exert after they are gone.

The condition of all progress is experience. We go wrong a thousand
times before we find the right path. We struggle, and grope, and hurt
ourselves until we learn the use of things, and this is true of things
spiritual as well as of material things. Pain is unavoidable, but it
acquires a new and higher meaning when we perceive that it is the price
humanity must pay for an invaluable good.

The consolations of the moral ideal are vigorous. They do not encourage
idle sentiment. They recommend to the sufferer action. Our loss, indeed,
will always remain loss, and no preaching or teaching can ever make it
otherwise. But the question is whether it shall weaken and embitter, or
strengthen and purify us, and lead us to raise to the dead we mourn a
monument in our lives that shall be better than any pillared chapel or
storied marble tomb.

The criterion of all right relations whatsoever is that we are helped by
them. And so, too, the criterion of right relations to the dead is that
we are helped, not weakened and disabled, by them. Does the remembrance
of our departed beloved ones have this effect upon us? Does it make us
better and purer men and women than we should otherwise have been,
stronger if not happier? Do they come to us as gentle monitors in silent
hours of thought? Does their approving smile stimulate us to greater
bravery for the right, to more earnest self-conquest? Does the pressure
of their invisible hands guide us in the better way? If so, then truly
blessed is their memory. Then will the pain which is associated with the
thought of them gradually be diminished; the wild regrets, the
unappeasable longings which, at times, assert themselves gradually be
pacified. Then will the bitter sense of the loss we have sustained be
overborne by the consciousness of the treasure of their influence which
still remains to us, and which can never be taken from us.

Activity is our great resource. To be active is to live. The glow that
comes with activity supplies the heat that supports our mental and moral
energies. Activity is the antidote to the depressions that lower our
vitality, whether they come from physical or psychical causes.

Those whom we love are not given to us merely for our joy or our
happiness. Their truest ministry consists in being to us revealers of
the divine. They quicken in us the seed of better thoughts, help us to
estimate rightly the things that are worth trying for and the things
that are not worth trying for; help us to become more equal to the
standard of our own best insight, and grow into our truer selves. And
this influence abides when they are gone.

Let us learn from the lips of death the lessons of life. Let us live
truly while we live, live for what is true and good and lasting. And let
the memory of our dead help us to do this. For they are not wholly
separated from us, if we remain loyal to them. In spirit they are with
us. And we may think of them as silent, invisible, but real presences in
our households.

In a storm at sea when the peril is extreme, the captain lashes himself
to the mast in order that he may bring the vessel safely through the
raging seas. So, in times of great affliction, we should lash ourselves
to the mast of the ship of life, by the cord of duty.

The bitter, yet merciful, lesson which death teaches us is to
distinguish the gold from the tinsel, the true values from the worthless

The terrible events of life are great eye-openers. They force us to
learn that which it is wholesome for us to know, but which habitually we
try to ignore--namely, that really we have no claim on a long life; that
we are each of us liable to be called off at any moment, and that the
main point is not how long we live, but with what meaning we fill the
short allotted span--for short it is at best.

The wine of pleasure which once we quaffed so passionately, where is it
now? The cup is empty and only the lees remain, and they are as wormwood
to the taste. The flowers which we wove into chaplets at our feasts to
wreathe ourselves withal, they are withered and noxious. But the good
deeds we have done, the nobler traits of character we have
developed--these are imperishable.

As in every battle, so in the great battle of Humanity, the fallen and
wounded, too, have a share in the victory; by their sufferings they have
helped, and the greenest wreaths belong to them.

We conceive of ourselves as somehow identical in being with those who
are to come after us; for it is in the nature of spirit that its
separate members, dispersed though they be in space and time, are still,
in essence, one. So that we may say concerning those who come after us,
and who will reap the benefit of our labours, that we ourselves shall
attain to increasing perfection in them.

All of us have felt after some great bereavement the beneficent
influence of mere work. Even the mechanical part of our daily tasks
affords us some relief. The knowledge that something must be done
prevents us from brooding over our griefs, and forces us back into the
active currents of life.

The resources of the intellect, too, stand us in good stead in times of
trouble. The pursuit of knowledge is directed toward large impersonal
ends: into the calm and silent realm of thought the feelings can gain no
entrance. There, after the first spasms of emotion have subsided, we may
find at least a temporary relief--there for hours we drink in a welcome
oblivion. But mere plodding toil and mere intellectual preoccupation do
not suffice, the discharge of the moral duties in the light of the moral
perfection to which they point alone can really sustain and console us.

In alleviating the misery of others our own misery will be alleviated;
in healing there is cure.

When we endure some heavy affliction we are apt to say, “Oh, there is no
suffering like my suffering. There is no one who bears such a load as
mine.” This is a mistake--the guilty suffer more than the afflicted.
Better a thousand times death than shame. There are depths below depths,
abysses below abysses.

Poverty, Sickness, Sorrow, and the experience of Sin are the great
instrumentalities for moralising our natures. They are dark gateways
through which we pass into a temple of light--into the innermost
sanctuary of a truer life. Yes, for the guilty also there is consolation
and redemption. “Come ye that are heavy laden unto me, no matter how
heavily laden with sin,” says every religion, “and I will give you
rest.” For those who have transgressed the moral law realise more fully
than others do the sublime majesty of the power which they have
affronted. And in a sense greater than words can convey, those who have
had the profoundest experience of guilt are more capable than others of
a divine transfiguration of their natures.

We are not free to stand aside in idle woe, but should make for the
departed a memorial in our lives and complete their half-completed
tasks. The widowed wife shall be both mother and father to her children;
the afflicted husband both father and mother to his children.

Faith in the sublime ideal of humanity is the saving faith that will
work miracles to-day, as of old at Cana, that will change the waters of
earth’s grief and misery into the wondrous wine of life and joy.

Death and the dead should be associated with what is brightest and
purest in Nature, with glorious sunsets, with the dawn of summer
mornings, with the fragrance of Spring.


The right for the right’s sake is the motto which every one should take
for his own life. With that as a standard of value we can descend into
our hearts, appraise ourselves, and determine in how far we already are
moral beings, in how far not yet.

The supremacy of the moral end of life above all other ends, the
sufficiency of man for the pursuit of that end, the increase of moral
truth to be expected from loyalty in this pursuit--these are the three
tenets, if we may call them so, of an ethical creed.

The question what to believe is perhaps the most momentous that any one
can put to himself. Our beliefs are not to be classed among the
luxuries, but among the necessaries of existence. They become
particularly important in times of trouble. They are like the life-boats
carried by ocean ships. As long as the sea is smooth and there is every
appearance of a prosperous voyage, the passengers seldom take note of
the boats or inquire into their sea-worthiness. But when the storm
breaks and danger approaches, then the capacity of the boats and their
soundness become matters of the first importance.

Ethical religion affirms the continuity of progress toward moral
perfection. It affirms that the spiritual development of the human race
cannot be prematurely cut off, either gradually or suddenly; that every
stone of offence against which we stumble is a stepping-stone to some
greater good; that, at the end of days, if we choose to put it so, all
the rays of progress will be summed and centred in a transcendent focus.

Religion is concerned with the foreign relations of mankind, that is to
say, with our relations to the whole of outside nature. The mission of
religion is to convince us that the foreign power is friendly. The
non-ethical religions have represented the eternal outside power as
manifesting its friendliness by warding off unhappiness and ministering
to the temporal well-being of man. Ethical religion restricts itself to
affirming that the eternal power assures the fulfilment of our moral
aims. The non-ethical religions have based the belief that there is a
higher power on the testimony of supernatural revelations. Ethical
religion bases its belief solely upon the testimony of conscience, which
declares that progress ought to be achieved, hence inferring that it
will be.

That the moral obligation remains in force is the capital fact to which
we must hold fast, no matter what may be our theories of life and the
Universe. The recognition of this obligation, the hearty avowal of the
supremacy of the moral end above all other ends of life, is the first
article of a practical ethical creed.

There may be, and there ought to be, progress in the moral sphere. The
moral truths which we have inherited from the past need to be expanded
and re-stated.

In times of misfortune we require for our support something of which the
truth is beyond all question, in which we can put an implicit trust,
“though the heavens should fall.” A merely borrowed belief is, at such
time, like a rotten plank across a raging torrent. The moment we step
upon it, it gives way beneath our feet.

Good deeds remain good, no matter whether we know how the world was made
or not. Vile deeds are vile, no matter whether we know or do not know
what, after death, will be the fate of the doer. We know, at least, what
his fate is now, namely, to be wedded to the vileness.

The question for any one to decide, who hesitates between good and evil,
is whether he aspires to be a full-weight man, or merely the fragment,
nay, the counterfeit of a man. Only he who ceaselessly aims at moral
completeness is, in the true sense, a human being.

There is a universal element in man which he can assert by so acting as
if the purpose of the Universe were also his purpose. It is the function
of the supreme ordeals of life to develop in men this power, to give to
their life this distinction, this height of dignity, these vast

Life has ever seemed to me a task. It has its interludes of joy. But, on
the whole, it is an arduous, often a desperately arduous task. I think
of the dead as of those who have finished their task, who have graduated
from this exacting school, who have taken their degree--and some of
them, surely, with honour.

We need to feel that no effort is ever wasted, that no honest reaching
out toward the good is vain, that the great All is pressing forward
toward a transcendent goal. And there is but a single way to obtain this
conviction. It is not possible to enter into the nature of the Good by
standing aloof from it--by merely speculating upon it. Act the Good, and
you will believe in it. Throw yourself into the stream of the world’s
good tendency and you will feel the force of the current and the
direction in which it is setting. The conviction that the world is
moving toward great ends of progress will come surely to him who is
himself engaged in the work of progress.

By ceaseless efforts to live the good life we maintain our moral sanity.
Not from without, but from within, flow the divine waters that renew the

The ethical element of religion has ever been its truly vital and
quickening force. It is this which lends such majesty to the speeches of
the Prophets, which gives such ineffable power and sweetness to the
words of Jesus. Has this ethical element become less important in our
age? Has the need of accentuating it become less imperative?

To-day, in the estimation of many, science and art are taking the place
of religion. But science and art alike are inadequate to build up
character and to furnish binding rules of conduct.

We need also a clearer understanding of applied ethics, a better insight
into the specific duties of life, a finer and a surer moral tact.

It is the business of the preacher, not only to state moral truths, but
to inspire his hearers with a realising sense of their value, and to
awaken in them the desire to act accordingly. He can do this only by
putting his own purpose as a yeast into their hearts. The influence of
the right sort of preachers cannot be spared. The human race is not yet
so far advanced that it can dispense with the impulses that come from
men of more than average intensity of moral energy.

Let us produce, through the efficacy of a better moral life and of a
deeper moral experience, a surer faith in the ultimate victory of the

Let us found religion upon a basis of perfect intellectual honesty.
Religion, if it is to mean anything at all, must stand for the highest
truth. How then can the cause of truth be served by the sacrifice, more
or less disguised, of one’s intellectual convictions?

To those who are longing for a higher life, who deeply feel the need of
religious satisfactions, we suggest that there is a way in which the
demands of the head and the heart may be reconciled. Religion is not
necessarily allied with dogma, a new kind of faith is possible, based
not upon legend and tradition, not upon the authority of any book, but
upon the moral nature of man.

Theologians often say that faith must come first, and that morality must
be deduced from faith. We say that morality must come first, and faith,
to those whose nature fits them to entertain it, will come out of the
experience of a deepened moral life as its richest, choicest fruit.

Precisely because moral culture is the aim, we cannot be content merely
to lift the mass of mankind above the grosser forms of evil. We must try
to advance the cause of humanity by developing in ourselves, as well as
in others, a higher type of manhood and womanhood than the past has

To aid in the evolution of a new conscience, to inject living streams of
moral force into the dry veins of materialistic communities is our aim.

We seek to come into touch with the ultimate power in things, the
ultimate peace in things, which yet, in any literal sense, we know well
that we cannot know. We seek to become morally certain--that is, certain
for moral purposes--of what is beyond the reach of demonstration. But
our moral optimism must include the darkest facts that pessimism can
point to, include them and transcend them.

To give to actual life the formal poise and finish of a work of art is
the tendency of those who see in learning and beauty the highest end of
human endeavour. It is a tendency the value of which as an element of
wisdom cannot be denied; but it cannot, on the other hand, be said that
it is “the religious teaching which is proper to our time.” The
watchword “culture” we may indeed adopt. But there is needed the
qualifying prefix “ethical” to give it a practical direction and a
higher than the merely æsthetic connotation.

We should teach our children nothing which they shall ever need to
unlearn; we should strive to transmit to them the best possessions, the
truest thought, the noblest sentiments of the age in which we live.

The moral ferment that has worked from the beginning in human nature is
active still. To-day it is manifest in the great social problems that
agitate our age, demanding a higher justice, if they are to be solved,
threatening social disruption if they are met in the hard spirit of
selfish greed, while promising a fairer future than the world has yet
seen if dealt with in wisdom and forbearance.

The frontier of the higher life is everywhere contiguous to the common
life, and we can cross the border at any moment. The higher life is as
real as the grosser things in which we put our trust. But our eyes must
be anointed so that we may see it.

The office of the religious teacher is to be a seer, and to make others
see, and thus to win them into the upward way.

They have not grasped the whole truth who see in the sympathetic side of
human nature, in the tender and amiable impulses of the heart, the
well-spring of our moral judgments. These gentle qualities--pity,
tenderness, sympathy--are the sweet, younger sisters of Virtue; but
Virtue herself is greater than they.

We should seek to free the moral life from the embarrassments and
entanglements in which it has been involved by the quibbles of the
schools and the mutual antagonisms of the sects; to introduce into it an
element of downrightness and practical earnestness; above all, to
secure to the modern world, in its struggle with manifold evil, the boon
of moral unity, despite intellectual diversity.

In order to improve ethics as a science it is necessary to fix attention
on the moral facts, to collect them, to bring them into view, especially
the more recondite facts.

Many of us stumble, not because we lack the desire to do what is right,
but because we fail to discern what the right is.

I believe in the supreme excellence of righteousness; I believe that the
law of righteousness will triumph in the universe over all evil; I
believe that in the attempt to fulfil the law of righteousness, however
imperfect it must remain, are to be found the inspiration, the
consolation, and the sanctification of human existence.

We live in order to finish an, as yet, unfinished universe, unfinished
so far as the human, that is, the highest part of it, is concerned. We
live in order to develop the superior qualities of man which are, as
yet, for the most part latent.

The test of genuine moral culture is to be found in the attention we pay
to the oft-neglected details of conduct; in the extent to which we have
formed the habit of asking, What is it right to do in those little
things which yet are not little?

The thought of the brevity of life is the prod that spurs us on to the
achievement of our task; it is like the blast of a bugle from the walls
of a fortress that warns us to make haste lest the gates be closed
against us.

We are to go out as teachers among the people, discarding the
limitations imposed by the theologies of the past, and holding up the
moral ideal, pure and simple, as the human ideal, as the ideal for all
men, embracing all men, binding on all men--the ideal of a perfect
society, of a society in which no men or class of men shall be mere
hewers of wood and drawers of water for others; in which no man or
woman, or class of men or class of women shall be used as tools for the
lusts of others, or for the ambitions of others, or for the greed of
others; in which every human life, the life of every man and woman and
child, shall be esteemed a sacred utterance of the Infinite.

                                THE END


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