Page:Reason in Common Sense (1920).djvu/258

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vailing in any age vary with its social economy and the prizes it is able to attain. And, if due allowance is made for the complexity of the subject, we may reasonably admit that the precepts of obligatory morality bear this relation to the general welfare; thus virtue means courage in a soldier, probity in a merchant, and chastity in a woman. But if we turn from the morality required of all to the type regarded as perfect and ideal, we find no such correspondence to the benefits involved. The selfish imagination intervenes here and attributes an absolute and irrational value to those figures that entertain it with the most absorbing and dreamful emotions. The character of Christ, for instance, which even the least orthodox among us are in the habit of holding up as a perfect model, is not the character of a benefactor but of a martyr, a spirit from a higher world lacerated in its passage through this uncomprehending and perverse existence, healing and forgiving out of sheer compassion, sustained by his inner affinities to the supernatural, and absolutely disenchanted with all earthly or political goods. Christ did not suffer, like Prometheus, for having bestowed or wished to bestow any earthly blessing: the only blessing he bequeathed was the image of himself upon the cross, whereby men might be comforted in their own sorrows, rebuked in their worldliness, driven to put their trust in the supernatural, and united, by their common indifference to the world,