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animating spirit of Roman life. The early Platonists of the empire corrected the exaggerations of stoicism, gave free scope for the amiable qualities, and supplied a theory of right and wrong suited not merely for heroic characters and for extreme emergencies, but also for the characters and circumstances. of common life. The Pythagorean and Neoplatonist schools revived the feeling of religious reverence, inculcated humility, prayerfulness, and purity of thought, and accustomed men to associate their moral ideals with the Deity, rather than with themselves." 1
Now, let us observe what may be found in this finely wrought passage when examined by the help of what is said elsewhere. First, as the type of character of every individual depends partly upon innate temperament, and partly upon external circumstances, so there are various influences operating in society at different periods to develop the various types, "which it is the duty of the moral historian to depict." Secondly, through the various causes operating to produce the different types, it results that the quantum is about the same in different individuals and periods. "History is not a mere succession of events, connected only by chronology. It is a chain of causes and effects." And, doubtless, according to our author, the causes and effects. operate in the natural history of morals just as everywhere else. But let us strictly notice what results from this "chain of causes and effects." "There is a great natural difference of degree and direction in both the moral and intellectual capacities of individuals; but it is not probable that the general average of natural morals in great bodies. of men materially varies. When we find a society very virtuous, or very vicious, when some particular virtue or vice occupies a peculiar prominence, or when important changes pass over the moral conceptions or standard of the people, we learn to trace in these things simply the action. of the circumstances that were dominant."2 Thirdly, as from the last statement might be anticipated, we are com2 Vol. i. pp. 352, 353.
1 Vol. i. pp. 352, 353.
pelled to define Lecky's standard of morals to be the standard of society; that is, the type is the one best suited to the time. "As a man may be deficient in any virtue, and yet in other respects be moral and virtuous; and as a character may be perfect in its own kind, but no character can possibly possess all types of perfection; so all that can be expected in one ideal is, that it be perfect in its own kind, and should exhibit the type most needed in its age and most wisely useful to mankind." With Bentham public opinion is the determinant of actions. How much does Lecky fall behind him, when he says: "Apart from positive commands, the sole external rule enabling men to designate acts, not simply as better or worse, but as positively right or wrong, is, I conceive, the standard of society."
Thus we have this learned writer's key, which appears not to be one that must be set to a definite number, as a "safe-key," but one that, like a "pass-key," will readily adapt itself to any door of a public house. But this standard is false, as it is variable. For if there is such a thing as morality at all, it must have an invariable, immutable standard, however much moral duties may change in their aspect; one, too, which of right is to regulate society, and that by first prescribing—or, rather, by itself being rule of rectitude for all society. Such a principle in its nature gives unity. Had it been consistently held and applied throughout, this work might have been a unit, which now, however, wanting the principle, wants the unity also.
And we may not unjustly complain of the author, that, having so well expressed the invalidity of what he calls inductive morals, — utilitarianism, and after having affirmed it to be his purpose to advocate intuitive morals, he brings us by an ambiguous course to a position from which, instead of seeing what we had a right to expect, we are able to discern, after all, nothing better than inductive morals ingeniously decorated by him with a new veil.
1 Vol. i. p. 163.
In passing to Lecky's unsatisfactory treatment of Christianity in his history of morals, what we trust the criticism already made will prepare for and make more intelligible, it is readily conceded that, through a multitude of facts, graphically presented, as if for a full and fair induction, he makes many valuable suggestions, and raises theories at least plausible. And yet his writings, under the show of great candor, are calculated to mislead in their total impressions as to the true nature and influence of Christianity. Indeed, to criticise fairly such a work is difficult; partly, because of its doubtful aim; partly, from the want of a fixed standard, according to which its opinions are promulgated; and partly, because things are said in one connection which seem not to comport well with what is said in other connections; not designedly, of course, but rather because the "standard of society" changes, we suppose.
It is not our aim, as it could hardly be profitable, to follow Lecky in detail. We desire the rather to mark certain features in which this work, taken in its total impressions, is unjust to Christianity. As already said, our author treats of the condition of the Roman empire, both before and after it became nominally Christian; and, although we could not accept his philosophical or theological stand-point, we might very well make our starting-point his transition to the conversion of Rome to Christianity, which is made in his best style, and indicates somewhat the drift of his work: "The moral improvement of society," he writes, "was now to pass into other hands. A religion which had long been increasing in obscurity began to emerge into the light. By the beauty of its moral precepts, by the systematic skill with which it governed the imagination and habits of its worshippers, by the strong religious motives to which it could appeal, by its admirable ecclesiastical organization, and, it must be added, by its unsparing use of the arm of power, Christianity soon eclipsed or destroyed all other sects, and became for many centuries the supreme ruler of the world. Combining the stoical doctrine of universal brotherhood, the Greek predi
lection for the amiable qualities, and the Egyptian spirit of reverence and religious awe, it acquired, from the first, an intensity and universality of influence which none of the philosophies it had superseded had approached. I have now to examine the moral causes that governed the rise of this religion in Rome, the ideal virtue it presented, the degree and manner in which it stamped its image upon the characters of nations, and the distortions it underwent." 1
After reading the long chapter on the moral state of the Pagan empire which precedes the above quotation, and comparing it with what is said in the third and fourth chapters of the morals connected with the ascendency of Christianity, in the implied contrast, we feel that the impression. left in respect to the morality of Pagan Rome is too favorable, while that of the morality of Christian Rome is too unfavorable in comparison. This is here our first point of criticism.
In depicting the pagan morality, the author sets forth abundantly the high-toned instruction of teachers of morals, such as Cicero, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Plutarch, etc., who abound in such sayings as these: "If you do anything to please men, you have fallen from your estate"; "A great man is not the less great when he lies vanquished and prostrate in the dust"; "That which is beautiful is beautiful in itself; the praise of men adds nothing to the quality"; "We do not love virtue because it gives us pleasure; but it gives us pleasure because we love it"; "All vice should be avoided, though it were concealed from the eyes of gods and men."2 These moral sentiments, which would do honor to any time, and are more elevated than many now taught, might indicate a high tone of public morals, were it not for the well-known fact that the precepts of the moralists were not extensively practised. Indeed, our author himself says that there was a "broad chasm existing between the Roman moralists and the Roman people." "We find a system of ethics, of which, when we 2 Vol. i. pp. 195, 196 passim.
1 Vol. i. p. 356.
consider the range and beauty of its precepts, the sublimity of the motives to which it appealed, and its perfect freedom from superstitious elements," from these Lecky does not, as we shall see, regard the Christian morals as free, "it is not too much to say that, though it may have been equalled, it has never been surpassed." And yet, high and spiritual as was the conception of duty, "the philosopher with his group of disciples, or the writer with his few readers, had scarcely any point of contact with the people." This want of contact with and influence over the popular mind, it may be observed in passing, is in striking contrast to the popular influence of the teachings of Christianity.
Just here distinct attention should be called to Lecky's glorification of stoicism. He dwells with peculiar delight on its elevating, invigorating influence, its unselfish ideal, its subjugation of the affections to the reason, and the noble patriotism which it engendered. He also speaks of it as if, in his view, it furnished to Christianity the "doctrine of universal brotherhood."2 Now, that the brightest feature of pagan morality appears in its stoicism, and that its noted teachers and best characters were imbued by its spirit, we are not disposed to deny; but that its practical influence was as great and salutary as this writer represents, we are not prepared to believe. Least of all did stoicism beget a universal brotherhood. This was first fully taught, as a practical doctrine, by Jesus Christ. It is realized only through the influence of Christianity, which, unlike all other systems, knows how to recognize and perfect the individual, while it raises all to a higher and genuine unity. Paganism, when it undertook to use man for anything further than his isolated individualism, would subordinate him to the interest of the state or emperor, and because the state or emperor needed him. It did not know how, with all its stoical wisdom, to harmonize personal freedom with true civil freedom; much less, to reach beyond "my own Rome," and grasp the true idea of a common humanity. It is Chris1 Vol. i. pp. 307, 308. 2 Vol. i. p. 356. VOL. XXIX. No. 114.