Christendom have been confused and considered inseparable.
A clear distinction can be drawn, however, between Christian religion and Christian ethics. The Christian religion is the system of beliefs and worship drawn from the life and teachings of Christ. Christian ethics is the system of principles of human conduct drawn from the same source. By far the larger portion of Christ's teachings is devoted to telling men how to live and act, comparatively little devoted to telling them how to worship or what to believe. Whatever else he was, he was certainly a great teacher of morals.
The motive which Christ sets before men is, however, religious—viz., the hope of reward in the hereafter. But those principles of conduct which he enunciated, inculcating the spirit of forgiveness, humility, unselfishness, brotherly kindness, purity, charity, and chastity, together with his affirmative golden rule, if practiced, would make a paradise of earth, whether or not any regard was given to a hereafter. What we need in our schools is the direct instruction in such principles and their application to human conduct, and it matters not a whit whether we call them Christian, scientific, or pagan ethics.
If a scientist were to formulate a code of scientific ethics, and a Christian were to formulate a Christian code, the two codes would be strikingly alike. If the Christian were faithful to Scripture, however, he would have at least one point, which is embodied in one of the most fundamental of Christ's precepts concerning duty, that the scientist would not have, viz., "Resist not evil, but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek turn to hi in the other also." If this had ever been tested in actual practice, it might belong to the scientist's code; but because of its severity as a rule of action theologists have spent much mental energy in explaining it away, and have so far succeeded that in its literal sense it is not generally considered as a part of Christian ethics at any rate, no Christians practice it, unless perhaps Mr. Tolstoi. With this rule of action eliminated there is no important ethical principle which can form a ground of controversy between scientists and Christians. We assume that on ethical questions there is no material difference between Protestants and Catholics.
Since, then, the ethical codes of earnest scientific thinkers, of the Protestant, and of the Catholic Churches are substantially one, and since there is no hope that the state will ever teach religion in its schools, may we not hope that upon this ground as a basis of compromise something may be accomplished through the schools of vastly greater value to humanity than any degree of manual training or purely intellectual development? The large thoughtlessly indifferent class would certainly not object to such an innovation. Those who are opposed to religious instruction would not be losing their case, because ethics is not religion. All who desire religious instruction to be given would be gaining their object in part, inasmuch as they include ethics in religion. Why not, then, show a spirit of compromise, and, instead of fighting on hopeless lines with divided forces, unite on a platform on which all can stand and fight on lines where there is hope?
The Church is doing a magnificent work toward the correction of the monstrous evils that walk rampant, but it will do vastly more when it comes to place a higher estimate upon human character than it does upon creeds. A portion of the press is doing a grand work, but it will do tenfold more when the entire press comes to care more for cultivating public taste than it does for catering to it. But the schools, which cultivate the fields where richest and most abundant harvests might be reaped, are reaping exceedingly light and scanty harvests, simply because it is not their legal or professed business to do anything toward correcting existing evils or the formation of right character.
|B. C. Mathews.|
|86 Kearney Street, Newark, N. J.|
|February 20, 1891.|
TO know is to be able, to ken is to can: philology proclaims it, and experience confirms it. Centuries ago the commoner phenomena of electricity and magnetism had attracted attention, but no one suspected that they meant anything in particular, or that they afforded indications of a power everywhere present, and only waiting a summons to enter into the service of man. Yet, let us not too severely blame our ancestors for lack of attention or intelligence. The doors of knowledge have had to be opened one by one, and in early times, when so many doors still remained closed, and others were at best but slightly ajar, it is not to be wondered at that the somewhat recondite and elusive laws of electricity should have re-