Hits so many solid points I thought you all would enjoy this one



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The Essentials of Spirituality 

The Essentials 
of Spirituality 


• • • - - 

9 ' * - 

NEW YORK, 1905 

Copyright, 1905, by Jamis Pott 8e Co. 

First Imprestion, September, 1905 

: - : \ * 


The Essentials of Spirituality 

The first essential is an awakening, a 
sense of the absence of spirituality, the real- 
ized need of giving to our lives a new and 
higher quality; first there must be the hun- 
ger before there can be the satisfaction. 

Similar effects are often produced by 
widely differing processes. In the psychical 
world that quality which we call spirituality 
may be associated with and evoked by The- 
ism, or the belief in a Divine Father; by 
Pantheism, as in the case of Spinoza, whose 
face at the very first glance impresses you 
with its spiritual cast; or even by the 
Buddhist belief in Nirvana. It may also be 
attained by following the precepts and striv- 
ing after the ideals of Ethical Culture. For 
spirituality is not indissolubly associated with 


any one type of religion or philosophy ; it is 
a quality of soul manifesting itself in a vari- 
ety of activities and beliefs. 

Before we proceed further, however, we 
must hazard a definition of the word. In the 
region of mental activity which is called the 
spiritual life vagueness is apt to prevail, the 
outlines of thought are apt to be blurred, the 
feelings aroused are apt to be indistinct and 
transitory. The word spirittwi becomes a 
synonym of muddy thought and misty emo- 
tionalism. If there were another word in 
the language to take its place, it would be 
well to use it. But there is not. We must 
use the word spiritualj despite its associa- 
tions and its abuse. We shall endeavor, how- 
ever, to attach a distinct and definite mean- 
ing to the word. Mere definition, however, 
is too abstract and nakedly intellectual. Per- 
haps a description of some types of character, 
combined with definition, will be the better 

Savonarola is surely one of the command- 
ing figures in history. His fiery earnestness, 
his passion for righteousness, the boldness 
with which he censured the corruptions of 


the Roman Court, the personal qualities by 
which he — a foreigner and a mere monk — 
made himself for a short period the law- 
giver, the prophet, and virtually the dictator 
of Florence — ^that Florence which was at the 
time the very gemmary of the Renaissance — 
his sudden fall and tragic death ; all combine 
to attract toward him our admiration, pity, 
and love, and to leave upon our minds 
the impression of his extraordinary moral 
genius. And yet, though a spiritual side was 
not wanting in Savonarola, we should not 
quote him as an outstanding exemplar of 
spirituality. The spiritual life is unperturbed 
and serene. His nature was too passionate, 
he was too vehement in his philippics, too 
deeply engrossed in the attainment of imme- 
diate results, too stormy a soul to deserve the 
name of spiritual. 

Again, our own Washington is one of the 
commanding figures in history. He achieved 
the great task which he set himself; he se- 
cured the political independence of America. 
He became the master builder of a nation ; he 
laid securely the foundations on which suc- 
ceeding generations have built. He was 


calm, too, with rare exceptions ; an expert in 
self-control. But there was mingled with his 
calmness a certain coldness. He was lofty 
and pure, but we should hardly go to him for 
instruction in the interior secrets of the spir- 
itual life. His achievements were in another 
field. His claim to our gratitude rests on 
other grounds. The spiritual life is calm, 
but serenely calm ; irradiated by a fervor and 
a depth of feeling that were to some extent 
lacking in our first president. Lincoln, per- 
haps, came nearer to possessing them. 

Again, we have such types of men as John 
Howard, the prison reformer, and George 
Peabody, who devoted his great fortune to 
bettering the housing of the poor and to mul- 
tiplying and improving schools. These men 
^-especially the latter — were practical and 
sane, and were prompted in their endeavors 
by an active and tender benevolence. Yet we 
should scarcely think of them as conspicuous 
examples of the spiritual quality in human 
life and conduct. Benevolence, be it never so 
tender and practical, does not reach the high 
mark of spirituality. Spirituality is more 
than benevolence in the ordinary sense of the 


term. The spiritual man is benevolent to a 
signal degree, but his benevolence is of a 
peculiar kind. It is characterized by a cer- 
tain serene fervor which we may almost call 

But perhaps some one may object that a 
standard by which personalities like Savo- 
narola, Washington, Howard and Peabody 
fall short is probably set too high, and that 
in any case the erection of such a standard 
cannot be very helpful to the common run 
of human beings. Where these heroic natures 
fall short, can you and I hope to attain ? To 
such an objection the reply is that we cannot 
be too fastidious or exacting in respect to our 
standard, however poor our performance 
may be. Nothing less than a kind of divine 
completeness should ever content us. Fur- 
thermore, there have been some men who ap- 
proached nearer to the spiritual ideal than the 
patriots and the philanthropists just mention- 
ed — some few men among the Greeks, the 
Hindus, and the Hebrews. And for the guid- 
ance of conduct, these more excellent spirits 
avail us more than the examples of a Savo- 
narola, a Washington or a Howard. To be 


a prophet or the lawgiver of a nation is not 
within your province and mine. For such a 
task hardly one among millions has the op- 
portunity or the gifts. To be liberators of 
their country has been accorded in all the 
ages thus far covered by human history to 
so small a number of men that one might 
count them on the fingers of a single hand. 
Even to be philanthropists on a large scale is 
the restricted privilege of a very few. But 
to lead the spiritual life is possible to you and 
me if we choose to do so. The best is within 
the reach of all, or it would not be the best. 
Every one is permitted to share life's highest 

The spiritual life, then, may be described 
by its characteristic marks of serenity, a cer- 
tain inwardness, a measure of saintliness. 
By the latter we are not to understand merely 
the aspiration after virtue or after a lofty 
ideal, still pursued and still eluding, but to a 
certain extent the embodiment of this ideal 
in the life — ^virtue become a normal experi- 
ence like the inhalation and exhalation of 
breath! Moreover, the spiritually-minded 
seem always to be possessed of a great secret. 


This air of interior knowledge, of the percep- 
tion of that which is hidden from the un- 
initiated, is a common mark of all refinement, 
aesthetic as well as moral. In studying the 
face of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, for 
instance, one will find that it is this interior 
insight that explains the so-called "cryptic 
smile." In the case of aesthetic refinement, 
the secret discloses itself as at bottom deli- 
cacy, the delicacy which prevents intrusion on 
the personality of others ; which abhors a pry- 
ing curiosity ; which finds subtle ways of con- 
veying esteem and delicate modes of render- 
ing service. But the secret of moral refine- 
ment is of a far higher order, transcending 
aesthetic refinement by as much as goodness 
is superior to mere charm. The secret in this 
case consists in the insight vouchsafed to 
the spiritually-minded of the true end of 
human existence. 

Constituted as we are, there exist for us 
lower and higher ends. This distinction is 
fundamental for ethics. Food is necessary; 
without it we cannot live. But the getting of 
food — ^however necessary — is a lower end. 
Knowledge is a necessary end, and a higher 


one. The practical moral ends, such as the 
reformation of prisons, the improvement of 
the dwellings of the poor, are yet higher 
ends. But above all these is the highest end, 
that of moral completeness, of perfection, not 
in one particular but in every particular. 
Spirituality consists in always keeping in 
view this supreme end. The spiritually- 
minded person is one who regards whatever 
he undertakes from the point of view of its 
hindering or furthering his attainment of the 
supreme end. If a river had a consciousness 
like the human consciousness, we might im- 
agine that it hears the murmur of the distant 
sea from the very moment when it leaves its 
source, and that the murmur grows clearer 
and clearer as the river flows on its way, wel- 
coming every tributary it receives as adding 
to the volume which it will contribute to the 
sea, rejoicing at every turn and bend in its 
long course that brings it nearer to its goal. 
Such is the consciousness of a spiritually- 
minded human being. Or to take a simile 
from human experience. There are times 
when we go abroad to travel just for change 
of scenery and the refreshment which change 


brings with it. When we go in this mood 
we are likely to be intent on wayside pleas- 
ures, and at every stage of the journey, at 
every town where we halt, we shall suffer 
ourselves to be engrossed in the points of 
interest which that temporary abiding-place 
has to offer us, careless of what may await us 
farther on. But there are other times when 
we go abroad on serious business. Some 
congress of scientists or fellow- workers is to 
meet in which we are to take our part; or 
there is a conflict being waged in which we 
are to bear our share of wounds or death, 
as in the case of the Japanese, who are now 
setting out from their homes toward the bat- 
tlefields of Manchuria ; or there is some loved 
one at a distance who needs us, calls us, ex- 
pects us. Then the stations on the way are 
unable to captivate our attention; we are 
impatient to pass them by ; we welcome each 
one as we approach it as bringing us one step 
nearer to the desired goal. 

Some such analogy will help us under- 
stand the inner state of a spiritually-minded 
person. He thinks always of the ultimate 
end. In whatever he does or omits to do he 


asks himself. Will it advance me or divert me 
from the ultimate goal? Since spirituality 
consists in keeping in mind the ultimate goal, 
it follows, in accordance with what was said 
in the beginning, that there must be various 
types of spirituality, corresponding to the 
various ways in which the ultimate goal is 
conceived. For those to whom the final end 
of human life is union with God, the Divine 
Father, the thought of this Divine Father 
gives color and complexion to their spiritual 
life. They think of Him when they lie down 
at night and when they rise up in the morn- 
ing ; his praise is ever on their lips ; the de- 
sire to win his approbation is with them in 
all their undertakings. To those who regard 
the attainment of Nirvana as the supreme 
end, like the Buddhists, the thought of Nir- 
vana is a perpetual admonition. To those 
who view the supreme end of life as moral 
perfection, the thought of that perfection is 
the constant inner companionw The moral 
man, commonly so-called; the man who is 
honest, pays his debts, performs his duties 
to his family ; the man who works for spe- 
cific objects, such as political reform; this 


man, worthy of all respect though he be, is 
still intent on the stages of his journey. The 
spiritual man, as we must now define him 
from the point of view of Ethical Culture, 
is the man who always thinks of the ultimate 
goal of his journey, i. e., a moral character 
complete in every particular, and who is in- 
fluenced by that thought at all times and in 
all things. Spirituality, in this conception of 
it, is nothing but morality raised to its high- 
est power. 

And now, let us ask what are some of the 
conditions on which the attainment of such a 
life depends. The prime condition is to ac- 
quire the habit of ever and anon detaching 
one's self from one's accustomed interests 
and pursuits, becoming, as it were, a specta- 
tor of one's self and one's doings, escaping 
from the sweeping current and standing on 
the shore. For this purpose it is advisable 
to consecrate certain times, preferably a cer- 
tain time each day, to self-recollection; to 
dedicate an hour — or a half-hour, if no more 
can be spared — ^to seeing one's life in all its 
relations; that is, as the poet has put it, to 
seeing life "steadily and seeing it whole." 


The sane view is to see things in their rela- 
tion to other things ; the non-sane view is to 
see them- isolated, in such a way that they 
exercise a kind of hypnotic spdl over us. 
And it makes no difference what a man's 
habitual interests may be, whether they be 
sordid or lofty, he needs ever and anon to 
get away from them. In reality, nothing 
wherewith a man occupies himself need be 
sordid. The spiritual attitude does not con- 
sist in turning one's back on things mundane 
and fixing one's gaze on some supernal blaze 
of glory, but rather in seeing things mun- 
dane in their relation to things ultimate, per- 

The eating of bread is surely a sufficiently 
commonplace operation. Yet Jesus brake 
bread with his disciples in such way that 
that simple act has become the symbol of 
sublimely spiritual relations, the centre of the 
most august rite of the Christian Church. 
In like manner the act of sitting down to an 
ordinary meal with the members of our fam- 
ily may, if seen in its relations, be for us a 
spiritual consecration. The common meal 
may become for us the type of the com- 


mon life we share, the common love we 

On the other hand, seemingly much more 
lofty pursuits may have a narrowing and 
deadening effect on us if we do not see them 
in their ultimate relations, and so divest them 
of reference to life's highest end. For in- 
stance, the pursuit of science may have this 
effect, if the sole object of the scientist be 
to perform some astonishing piece of work 
for the purpose of attracting attention or to 
secure a well-salaried position, or even if he 
be so wedded to his specialty as to fail to be 
sensitive to the relations of it to the body of 
truth in general. And the same holds good 
of the narrow-minded reformer, of whom 
Emerson has said that his virtue so painfully 
resembles vice; the man who puts a moral 
idol in the place of the moral ideal, who 
erects into the object toward which all his 
enthusiasm goes some particular reform, 
such as the single tax, or socialism, or public 
parks, or a model school ; the man, in short, 
who strives for a good instead of striving for 
goodness. Whatever our pursuits may be, 
we should often mentally detach ourselves 


from them, and, standing aloof as impartial 
spectators, consider the direction in which 
they are taking us. 

This counsel is frequently urged on 
grounds of health, since the wear and tear 
of too intense absorption in any pursuit is 
apt to wreck the nervous system. I urge it 
on the ground of mental sanity, since a man 
cannot maintain his mental poise if he fol- 
lows the object of his devotion singly, with- 
out seeing it in relation to other objects. And 
I urge it also on the ground of spirituality, 
for a salient characteristic of spirituality is 
calmness, and without the mental repose 
which comes of detachment we cannot im- 
port calmness into our lives. There are some 
persons, notably among those engaged in 
philanthropic activities, who glory in being 
completely engrossed in their tasks, and who 
hug a secret sense of martyrdom, when late 
at night, perhaps worn out in mind and body, 
they throw themselves upon their couch to 
snatch a few hours of insufficient sleep. 
Great occasions, of course, do occur when 
every thought of self should be effaced in 
service; but as a rule, complete absorption 


in philanthropic activity is as little sane and 
as little moral as complete absorption in the 
race for gain. The tired and worn-out 
worker cannot do justice to others, nor can 
he do justice to that inner self whose de- 
mands are not satisfied even by philanthropic 
activity. If, then, sdf-recollection is essen- 
tial, let us make daily provision for it. Some 
interest we should have — even worldly pru- 
dence counsels this much — ^as far remote as 
possible from our leading interest; and be- 
yond that, some book belonging to the world's 
great spiritual literature on which we may 
daily feed. The Bible used to be in the old 
days all-sufficient for this purpose, and it 
is still, in part at least, an admirable aid 
to those who know how to use it. But there 
are other books, such as the legacy of the 
great Stoics, the writings of our latter-day 
prophets, the essays of Arnold and Carlyle 
and Emerson, the wisdom of Goethe. These 
noble works, even if they do not wholly sat- 
isfy us, serve to set our thoughts in motion 
about high concerns, and give to the mind a 
spiritual direction. 
A second condition of the spiritual life has 


been expressed in the precept, reiterated in 
many religions, by many experts in things 
relating to the life of the soul : "Live as if 
this hour were thy last." You will recall, 
as I pronounce these words, the memento 
mori of the Ancients, their custom of exhib- 
iting a skeleton at the feast, in order to re- 
mind the banqueters of the fate that awaited 
them. You will remember the other-world- 
liness of Christian monks and ascetics who 
decried this pleasant earth as a vaJe of tears, 
and endeavored to fix the attention of their 
followers upon the pale joys of the Christian 
heaven, and you will wonder, perhaps, that 
I should be harking back to these conceptions 
of the past. I have, however, no such inten- 



The prevailing attitude toward the thought 
of death is that of studied neglect. Men 
wish to face it as little as possible. We 
know, of course, what the fate is that awaits 
us. We know what are the terms of the 
compact. Now and again we are momenta- 
rily struck by the pathos of it all; for in- 
stance, when we walk through some crowded 
thoroughfare on a bright day and reflect that 


before many years this entire multitude will 
have disappeared. The rosy-cheeked girl 
who has just passed; the gay young fellow 
at her side, full of his hopes, confident of his 
achievements, acting and speaking as if the 
lease of eternity were his; that "grave and 
reverend seigneur," clad with dignity and 
authority — ^all will have gone, and others will 
have taken their places. Yet, as a rule, we are 
not much affected by such reflections. When 
one of our friends has met with a pain- 
less death we are apt to solace ourselves with 
the hope that perhaps we shall be as lucky 
as he; at all events, we know that when our 
time comes we must take our turn. Even 
those who look forward with apprehension 
to the last moment, and who when it ap- 
proaches, cling desperately to life, are pru- 
dent enough to hold their peace. There is 
a general understanding that those who go 
shall not mar the composiu'e of those who 
stay, and that public decorum shall not be 
disturbed by outcries. 

This is the baldly secular view of the mat- 
ter, and this view, though based on low con- 
siderations, in some respects is sound enough. 


And yet I reiterate the opinion that to live 
as if this hour were our last — in other words, 
to frankly face the idea of death — ^is most 
conducive to the spiritual life. It is for the 
sake of the reflex action upon life that the 
practice of coming to a right understanding 
with death is so valuable. Take the case of 
a man who calls on his physician, and there 
unexpectedly discovers that he is afflicted 
with a fatal malady, and is told that he may 
have only a few months longer to live. This 
visit to the physician has changed the whole 
complexion of life for him. What will be 
the effect upon him ? If he be a sane, strong, 
morally high-bred man, the effect will be en- 
nobling; it will certainly not darken the face 
of nature for him. Matthew Arnold wished 
that when he died he might be placed at the 
open window, that he might see the sun shin- 
ing on the landscape, and catch at evening 
the gleam of the rising star. Everything 
that is beautiful in the world will still be 
beautiful; he will thankfully accept the last 
draught of the joy which nature has poured 
into his goblet. Everything that is really up- 
lifting in human life will have a more exquis- 


ite and tender message for him. The gayety 
of children will thrill him as never before, in- 
terpreted as a sign of the invincible buoyancy 
of the human race, of that race which will go 
on battling its way after he has ceased to live. 
If he be a man of large business connections, 
he will still, and more than ever, be interested 
in planning how what he has begun may be 
safely continued. If he be the father of a 
family, he will provide with a wise solicitude, 
as far as possible, for every contingency. 
He will dispose of matters now, as if he could 
see what will happen after his departure. On 
the other hand, all that is vain or frivolous, 
every vile pleasure, gambling, cruelty, harsh 
language to wife or child, trickery in busi- 
ness, social snobbishness, all the base traits 
that disfigure human conduct, he will now 
recoil from with horror, as being incongru- 
ous with the solemn realization of his condi- 
tion. The frank facing of death, therefore, 
has the effect of sifting out the true values of 
life from the false, the things that are worth 
while from the things that are not worth 
while, the things that are related to the high- 
est end from those related to the lower partial 


ends. The precept, "Live as if this hour 
were thy last," is enjoined as a touchstone; 
not for the purpose of dampening the healthy 
relish of life, but as a means of enhancing the 
relish for real living, the kind of living that 
is devoted to things really worth while. As 
such a test it is invaluable. The question, 
"Should I care to be surprised by death in 
what I am doing now ?" — ^put it to the dissi- 
pated young man in his cups, put it to the 
respectable rogue — ^nay, put it to each one of 
us, and it will often bring the blush of shame 
to our cheeks. When, therefore, I commend 
the thought of death, I think of death not as 
a grim, grisly skeleton, a King of Terrors, 
but rather as a mighty angel, holding with 
averted face a wondrous lamp. By that 
lamp — ^hold it still nearer, O Death — ^I would 
read the scripture of my life, and what I 
read in that searching light, that would I 
take to heart 

Finally, there is a third condition of the 
spiritual life which I would mention, and 
which comes nearer to the heart of the mat- 
ter than anything that has yet been said. 
Learn to look upon any pains and injuries 


which you may have to endure as you would 
upon the same pains and injuries endured by 
someone else. If sick and suffering, remem- 
ber what you would say to someone else 
who is sick and suffering, remember how 
you would admonish him that he is not the 
first or the only one that has been in like 
case, how you would expect of him fortitude 
in bearing pain as an evidence of human dig- 
nity. Exhort yourself in like manner; ex- 
pect the same fortitude of yourself. If any 
one has done you a wrong, remember what 
you would adduce in palliation of the offence 
if another were in the same situation; re- 
member how you would suggest that perhaps 
the one injured had given some provocation 
to the wrongdoer, how you would perhaps 
have quoted the saying: "Tout comprendre 
est tout pardonner^' — "to understand is to 
pardon," how you would in any case have 
condemned vindictive resentment. In the 
moral world each one counts for one and not 
more than one. The judgment that you pass 
on others, pass on yourself, and the fact that 
you are able to do so, that you have the 
power to rise above your subjective self and 


take the public universal point of view with 
respect to yourself, will give you a wonderful 
sense of enfranchisement and poise and spir- 
itual dignity. And, on the other hand (and 
this is but the obverse of the same rule), look 
upon everyone else as being from the moral 
point of view just as important as you are; 
nay, realize that every human being is but 
another self, a part of the same spiritual 
being that is in you, a complement of your- 
self, a part of your essential being. Realize 
the unity that subsists between you and your 
fellow-men, and then your life will be spirit- 
ual indeed. For the highest end with which 
we must be ever in touch, toward which we 
must be ever looking, is to make actual that 
imity between ourselves and others of which 
our moral nature is the prophecy. The re- 
alization of that unity is the goal toward 
which humanity tends. 

Spirituality depends upon our tutoring 
ourselves to regard the welfare of others- 
moral as well as external — ^as much our 
concern as our own. What this practically 
means the following illustration will indi- 
cate. A certain bank official, a man of 


excellent education and of high social stand- 
ing, committed a crime. He allowed him- 
self in a moment of lamentable weakness 
to use certain trust funds which had been 
committed to him to cover losses which he 
had sustained. He intended to replace what 
he had taken, of course, but he could not do 
so, for he became more and more deeply in- 
volved. One night as he was alone in his 
office it became plain to him that the day of 
reckoning could no longer be put off. He 
was at the end of his resources. The morrow 
would bring exposure and ruin. Then the 
temptation seized him to make away with 
himself. He had a charming wife and two 
lovely daughters. He was the revered head 
of the household ; in the eyes of his family 
the paragon of honor. He was universally 
esteemed by his friends, who knew not his 
temptation and his fall. On that night in the 
lonely office he could not bear to think of 
meeting the future, of being exposed as a 
criminal in the eyes of his friends, of bring- 
ing upon his family the infamy and the 
agony of his disgrace. Should a man in his 
situation be permitted to commit suicide? If 


we were at his elbow should we allow him to 
do so? This question was submitted to one 
of my Ethics classes. The students at first 
impulsively decided in the affirmative, for 
they argued, as many do, that right conduct 
consists in bestowing happiness on others, 
and wrong conduct in inflicting suffering on 
others ; and now that the man had commit- 
ted the crime, they maintained he could at 
least relieve those whom he loved of his pres- 
ence by taking himself out of their way. 
True, someone said, the exposure was in- 
evitable in any case, and the shock of discov- 
ery could not be averted ; but we were forced 
to concede that from the point of view of 
suffering, the pain involved in the sudden 
shock could not be compared to the long- 
drawn-out anguish which would result if he 
continued to live. For presently he would 
forfeit his liberty ; he would sit as a prisoner 
in the dock. His wife and daughters, lo)ral 
to their duties even toward an unworthy hus- 
band and father, would be found at his side. 
They would hear the whispers, they would 
see the significant nods, they would endure 
all the shame. Later on, when the trial was 


at an end, the prisoner would stand up to 
hear the verdict. They would still be near 
him. Still later there would be the pilgrim- 
age to the prison on the Hudson. They 
would see their beloved husband and father 
in striped garb among the scum and refuse 
of society, and these weary journeys would 
be repeated during long years until his term 
was over and he returned a broken and out- 
cast man to what was once a home. Could 
not this lamentable issue at least be fore- 
stalled? But then there came a new light 
into our discussion. One of the students 
suggested that he must face the consequences 
of his wrongdoing, and that one of the conse- 
quences is the very suffering which he in- 
flicts upon the innocent. He must see that 
day by day. That would be a part of his 
expiation, the purifying fire that may con- 
sume the dross of his nature. And, on the 
other hand, it would be right for the inno- 
cent to bear, not the guilt, but the conse- 
quences of the guilt of the wrongdoer whom 
they have loved, whom they still love. For 
this is the holy law : that the other whom we 
love shall be taken into our self as a part of 


our very sdf, that in his joy we shall rejoice 
as if his joy were ours, that in his achieve- 
ments we shall triumph, that in his humilia- 
tions we shall be humbled, and that we shall 
work out his redemption by traveling with 
him the hard road that leads out of the dark 
depths upward again to the levels of peace 
and reconciliation. 

The spiritual life depends on self -recollec- 
tion and detachment from the rush of life; it 
depends on facing frankly the thought of 
death ; it is signalized, especially, by the iden- 
tification of self with others, even of the 
guiltless with the guilty. Spirituality is 
sometimes spoken of as if it were a kind of 
moral luxury, a work of supererogation, a 
token of fastidiousness and over-refinement. 
It is nothing of the sort. Spirituality is sim- 
ply morality carried to its farthest bounds; 
it is not an airy bauble of the fancy, it is 
of "the tough fibre of the human heart." 



Sunday, Nov. 2^, 1904. 


Those whom we call our neighbors, our 
fellow-men, may stand to us in a threefold 
relation. Some possess gifts far gpreater than 
our own, and in point of development are 
our superiors; some are on the same level; 
and some are much inferior to us. The 
spiritual attitude toward our neighbor — 
though always governed by the same princi- 
ple, expresses itself in different ways, accord- 
ing as our neighbor is related to us in one 
or another of these three ways. 

I recently read a biography of Matthew 
Arnold, the author of which constantly 
speaks of himself as Arnold's disciple. It is 


not often nowadays that we hear men pro- 
claim themselves disciples and glory in their 
discipleship. At the present day the tend- 
ency is for every one to assert an equality 
with others; and most persons would re- 
sent the imputation of subordination implied 
in such a word as disciple. And yet the 
writer in question is a self-respecting man, 
he is thoroughly alive to his dignity, and 
he has keen and unsparing words for cer- 
tain of the faults of the master whom he re- 
veres. He is not blind, he is not wax in 
the hands of the master, he does not look 
upon him with undisceming admiration, and 
yet he takes toward him the reverent atti- 
tude — what I should call the spiritual atti- 
tude — for he recognizes that this master of 
his is a casket in which nature has deposited 
a treasure of extraordinary value, that he 
possesses a genius much superior to that of 
others. The loyal disciple is concerned that 
this genius should appear in its full potency 
and in undiminished radiance. To this end 
is the upward look, the appreciation and rev- 
erence, and to this end also the misgiving 
and the remonstrance when the great man 


deviates from the course which he ought to 
follow. The same attitude of loyalty we 
sometimes find among the disciples of great 
artists, and the followers of great religious 
teachers. Loyalty is a virtue which is 
somewhat underrated at the present day. 
Loyalty is not debasing, not unworthy of 
a self-respecting man; it is but another 
name for the spiritual attitude towaird those 
who have a superior genius, to whose 
height we are lifted by our appreciation of 

Furthermore, in our spiritual relation to- 
ward those who occupy about the same plane 
of development with ourselves, the same 
principle of sympathy with the best possible 
attainment should be the rule. To rejoice in 
the failure of others, to accentuate in our 
thinking and in our conversation the faults 
of others, to triumph at their expense, is the 
utterly unspiritual attitude. To desire that 
others may manifest the excellence that is 
latent in them — ^be it like to or different from 
our own, to desire that they shall have credit 
for every excellence they possess, and to sed- 
ulously aid them in developing such excel- 


lence as they can attain to, that is the spir- 
itual attitude. 

I have spoken of superiors and equals, of 
our attitude toward those who are more de- 
veloped than we are, and toward those who 
are about equally developed ; but my address 
to-day will be mainly occupied with our duty 
toward those who are or seem to be wholly 
undeveloped. The fundamental principle of 
Ethics is that every human being possesses 
indefeasible worth. It is comparatively easy 
to apply the principle of anticipating our 
neighbor's latent talents to the highly gifted, 
to the great authors, scientists, statesmen, 
artists, and even to the moderately gifted, for 
their worth is, in part, already manifested in 
their lives. But it is not so easy to apply or 
justify the principle in the case of the obscure 
masses, whose lives are uneventful, unillu- 
minated by talent, charm, or conspicuous ser- 
vice, and who, as individuals at least, it 
might appear, could well be spared without 
impairing the progress of the human race. 
And yet this doctrine of the worth of all is 
the cornerstone of our democracy. Upon it 
rests the principle of the equal rights of 


even the humblest before the law, the equal 
right of all to participate in the government. 
It is aJso the cornerstone of all private moral- 
ity ; for unless we accept it, we cannot take 
the spiritual attitude toward those who are 

The doctrine, then, that every man pos^ 
sesses indefeasible worth is the basis of pub- 
lic morality, and at the same time the moral 
principle by which our private relations to 
our fdlow-men are regulated. What does 
it mean to ascribe indefeasible worth to every 
man? It means, for instance, that human 
beings may not be hunted and killed in sport 
as hunters kill birds or other game; that 
human beings may not be devoured for food 
as they have been by cannibals or sometimes 
by men in starvation camps when hard pressed 
by hunger; that human beings may not be 
forced to work without pay, or in any way 
treated as mere tools or instruments for the 
satisfaction of the desires of others. This, 
and more to the same purpose, is implied in 
the ascription of indefeasible worth to every 
man. Moreover, on the same principle, it 
follows that it is morally wrong to deprive 


another of the property which he needs for 
his livelihood or for the expression of his 
personality, and to blast the reputation of an- 
other — ^thereby destroyingwhat may be called 
his social existence. And it also follows that 
a society is morally most imperfect, the con- 
ditions of which are such that many lives are 
indirectly sacrificed because of the lack of 
sufficient food, and that many persons are 
deprived of their property through cunning 
and fraud. The life of animals we do take, 
and whatever secret compunction we may 
have in the matter, the most confirmed vege- 
tarian will not regard himself in the light 
of a cannibal when he partakes of animal 
food. The liberty of animals we do abridge 
without scruple; we harness horses to our 
carriages, regardless of what may be their 
inclinations, and we do not regard ourselves 
as slaveholders when we thus use them. 
Why is there this enormous distinction be- 
tween animals and men? Are the Hot- 
tentots so greatly elevated above the ani- 
mal level ; are the lowest classes of negroes 
so much superior in intelligence to animals ? 
Have the black race and the brown race any 


claim to be treated as the equals of the white ? 
Among white men themselves is there not a 
similar difference between inferiors and supe^ 
riors? Such questions naturally suggest 
themselves ; and they' have been asked at all 
times. It seems obvious that value should 
be ascribed to those who possess genius or 
even talent, or at least average intelligence; 
but why should value be ascribed to every 
human being just because he wears the 
human form? 

The positive belief in human worth on 
which is based the belief in human equality, 
so far as it has rooted itself in the world at 
all, we owe to religion, and more particularly 
to the Hebrew and Christian religions. The 
Hebrew Bible says : "In the image of God 
did He create man" — it is this God-likeness 
that to the Hebrew mind attests the worth of 
man. As some of the great masters on com- 
pleting a painting have placed a miniature 
portrait of themselves by way of signature 
below their work, so the great World-Artist 
when He had created the human soul stamp- 
ed it with the likeness of Himself to attest its 
divine origin. And the greatest of the He- 


brew thinkers conceived of this dignity as be- 
longing to all human beings alike, irrespec- 
tive of race or creed. In practice, however, 
the idea of equal human worth was more or 
less limited to the Chosen People. At least, to 
keep within the bounds of the artistic simile, 
the members of the Hebrew people were re- 
garded as first-proof copies, and other men 
as somewhat dim and less perfect duplicates. 
In the Christian religion a new idea was 
introduced. The belief in the worth of man 
was founded on the doctrine of redemption. 
The sacrifice of atonement had been offered 
up for the benefit of all persons who chose to 
avail themselves of it. Christ had come to 
save the Gentile as well as the Jew, the bond 
as well as the free, men, women and children 
of every race, living under every sky, of 
every color of skin and degree of intelligence. 
The sacred respect which we owe to every 
human being is due from this point of view 
to the circumstance that every human being 
is a possible beneficiary of the Atonement. 
For him too — as the theological phrase is — 
Christ died upon the cross. But in Chris- 
tianity too we find that the idea of brother- 


hood, of equal worth, universal as it is in 
theory, in practice came to be considbrably 
restricted. It did not really extend to all 
human beings as such; it did not extend to 
those who refused to be the beneficiaries of 
the act of atonement. In reality, it applied 
only to Christians or to those who were not 
averse to receiving the Christian faith. 

The theological formulation of the funda- 
mental idea which we are discussing, there- 
fore, is beset by two difficulties : it is limited 
in application, and it is based on theological 
conceptions. As soon as these theological 
conceptions are relinquished, the doctrine of 
equality is in danger of being abandoned. 

In 1776, the founders of the American Re- 
public undertook to supply a new and a secu^ 
lar foundation for this doctrine. In the Dec- 
laration of Independence, Jefferson wrote: 
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that 
all men are created free and equal." In other 
words, he put forth the astonishing proposi- 
tion that human equality is self-evident. 
Many of us would incline to the opinion that 
the opposite is self-evident, that the inequali- 
ties which subsist between men are so palpa- 


ble that we cannot overlook them. If, how- 
ever, we inquire what led Jefferson to this 
statement, we shall find that, at the time when 
the Declaration of Independence was written, 
there existed a basis of fact that gave color 
to his assumption. The population of the 
United Colonies was small — only about three 
millions — ^and on the whole homogeneous. 
The great majority of the people were agri- 
culturists, pursuing the same occupations 
and on the whole exhibiting the same traits. 
They were all, or almost all, of vigorous 
stock, capable of self-government, jealous of 
their rights, independent in spirit. At that 
particular time, the points of similarity and 
equality among the members of the American 
Colonies far outweighed the points of dissim- 
ilarity. It was, then, to a certain extent on 
facts of experience, and not entirely on the 
hypothesis of the eighteenth century philos- 
ophy, that Jefferson's famous proclamation 

Since Jefferson's day the facts have mark- 
edly changed. We have passed beyond the 
agricultural stage, and have entered the stage 
of industrial development. The occupations 


of our citizens have become greatly diversi- 
fied.. Large bodies of foreign immigrants 
have come to us. If we survey the condi- 
tions of American life at present, we are 
strongly impressed with the differences that 
exist between the various strata of our popu- 
lation: differences in mental ability, differ- 
ences in vital energy, differences in the point 
of culture attained, differences in capacity to 
rise. As a consequence, the Declaration of 
Independence is treated by many as an ob- 
solete document, and its assertions as mere 
bombast and rhetoric; unjustly so, because 
the truth which it attempts to convey is valid, 
though the form in which the truth is ex- 
pressed and the grounds on which it is put 
are no longer adequate. 

We have arrived, then, at this pass: the 
theological foundation for the doctrine of 
human equality has failed or is failing us; 
the facts to which the Declaration of Inde- 
pendence appealed have altered. Are we, 
then, to give up the belief in human equality 
— that priceless postulate of the moral law, 
the basis alike of democracy and of private 
morality? At times it seems to us that the 


world is almost ready to do so. Nietzsche in 
Germany puts it forth as a philosophic prin- 
ciple that humanity exists not for the demo- 
cratic purpose of securing the highest de- 
velopment of all, but for the aristocratic 
purpose of producing a race of supermen, 
an elite of strong, forceful, "leonine" beings. 
And in his doctrine that the many exist 
as a- kind of pedestal for the grandeur of 
the few, he finds support the world over. 
Men are but too ready in this age, when 
the energies of the strong have been unfet- 
tered and moral restraints have become weak- 
ened, to put Nietzche's doctrine into prac- 
tice too. From the Congo we hear appalling 
accounts of the cruelty of civilized men in 
their dealings with the uncivilized. Rubber 
and ivory, it appears, must be obtained in 
large quantities to secure a handsome profit 
on investments that have been made in 
those regions. Railroads must be built to 
make the supply of rubber and of ivory acces- 
sible. In consequence, a system of forced 
labor, of virtual slavery, has been imposed on 
the miserable natives in order to make the 
building of these railroads possible. Human 


life has not been spared, for human life in the 
Congo is as dust in the balance when weighed 
against the profits from rubber. Punitive ex- 
peditions have been organized (in other 
words, wholesale slaughter has been resorted 
to), in order to coerce the reluctant natives to 
bring in their supplies more punctually. The 
wives and daughters of the natives have been 
seized, brutally chained, and detained as 
hostages in order to influence their husbands 
and fathers to a more ready obedience. The 
story of the Congo reads like an incredible 
nightmare; the civilized world is aghast at 
the partial revelations of it which have been 
published. From Armenia we hear similar 
stories of ruthless contempt for human life 
and merciless outrage. With Kishineff and 
Siberia in mind, we need not comment on the 
conditions that exist in Russia. In the United 
States, the heartrending circumstances that 
accompany negro lynchings, the conditions in 
the sweated industries, and the widespread 
evil of child labor show us clearly enough 
how little the doctrine of the intrinsic and in- 
defeasible worth of man has as yet become 
the property of even the most advanced na- 


tions. In the face of all these odds on the 
other side, in the face of these confederate 
forces working the world over for the abase- 
ment of man, how urgent is the appeal to 
rescue and fortify the doctrine, to make it 
effectual, first in our own conduct and then 
in that of others ! And on what tenable foun- 
dations can we rest it, that it may become 
operative ? 

First, as to its meaning. It does not mean 
equality of gifts, or equality of mental en- 
ergy, or equality in any of the traits that 
lead to successful careers. It means equality 
in the sense that each is the vehicle of some 
talent, however small, the bearer of some gift, 
however seemingly inconsiderable, which in 
the sum total of humanity's development is 
needed ; that each one in his place and with 
his gift, however insignificant in appearance, 
is in fact indispensable. 

And what is the reason for ascribing such 
worth to human beings ? The sole reason is, 
that the moral law enjoins us to do so. Be- 
fore ever we have discovered whether a man 
has worth in him or not, the moral law en- 
joins us to ascribe it to him, to treat him as 


if he had it, to see in him the light of the 
possibilities which he has never made good 
and which he never wholly will make good : 
and thus, and thus only, shall we bring to 
light, in part at least, the precious things in 
his nature, the existence of which we can 
only divine. The moral law is wholly mis- 
tmderstood if it be founded on the actual 
worth or value of men, for none of us has 
great worth or value. The moral law is a 
law for the eliciting of possibilities. Briefly 
put, it enjoins that we shall invest others 
with a garment of light, that we shall ascribe 
worth to others and to ourselves, in order 
that they and we may become worthy. This 
is the spiritual basis of the doctrine of equal- 
ity; this is the spiritual conception which 
should regulate our attitude toward our 

And yet if there were no evidence at all to 
support our faith in human goodness, our 
faith, however vigorous at first, would soon 
decline, and hope and courage might utterly 
desert us. If men on nearer acquaintance 
turned out to be, as some pessimists have 
represented them to be, hard egotists, in- 


grates, slanderers, backbiters, envious, incap- 
able of generous admirations, sodden in sen- 
suality, knaves devoid of scruple; if experi- 
ence indeed bore out this sweeping impeach- 
ment, if especially the so-called masses of 
mankind were hopelessly delivered over to 
the sway of brutal instincts, of superstition 
and folly ; the faith of which I speak might 
justly be termed mere fatuousness, and the 
rule of acting on the assumption that men 
are better than they appear would turn out a 
blind delusion. But the striking fact is, that 
as soon as we act on the principle of looking 
for the latent good in others, we are reward- 
ed by finding far more than we had any rea- 
son to expect. 

Take as an instance the masses of the 
poor and ignorant, upon whom we are so 
apt to pass sweeping judgments, as Carlyle 
did when he said that the population of 
England was forty millions — ^mostly fools. 
The experience of those who have had to do 
with popular education does not corroborate 
this rash condemnation. There is hardly a 
child in our public schools that is not found 
to possess mental power of some sort, if only 


we possess the right method of calling it out. 
The new education is new and significant 
just because it has succeeded in devising 
methods for gaining access to the latent men- 
tal power, and thus reaching what had been 
supposed to be non-existent. Every so-called 
educational campaign in the field of politics 
brings out the same truth. The capacity for 
hard thinking and sound judgment which 
resides in the working class is surprising to 
us, only because in our preposterous pride we 
had supposed them to be baked of different 
clay than we are. In the matter of artistic 
endowment, too, what wonderful discoveries 
do we constantly make among poor children, 
even among children that come from the 
lowest dregs of society! What fine fancy, 
what prompt response to the appeal of the 
beautiful, in spite of all the debasing inherit- 

But it is, in the last analysis, the moral 
qualities upon which our respect for human 
nature rests, and in this respect, how often 
are we astonished, yes and abashed, when we 
observe the extent to which the moral virtues 
express themselves in the life of those who. 


in point of so-called culture, are infinitely our 
inferiors! What power of self-sacrifice is 
displayed by these poor people, whom some- 
times in our wicked moods we are disposed 
to despise; what readiness to share the last 
crust with those who are, I will not say 
htmgry, but hungrier I Who of us would 
take into his own house, his own bedchamber, 
a dying consumptive, a mere acquaintance, 
in order that the last days of the sufferer 
might be soothed by friendly nursing? Who 
of us would make provision in our will to 
share our grave with a worthy stranger, in 
order to avert from him the dreaded fate of 
being buried in the Potter's Field? Which 
of our young men would be willing to refuse 
the proffered opportunity of an education in 
one of the foremost colleges in the land, in 
order to stay with the old folks at home and 
work at a menial occupation for their sup- 
port ? Who of us would give up the joys of 
youth to devote his whole life to the care of a 
bed-ridden, half-demented parent? Yet all 
of these things and many others like them I 
have known to be done by people who live in 
the tenement houses of this great city. It 


sometimes seems as if the angelic aspect of 
himian nature displayed itself by preference 
in the house of poverty, as if those who pos- 
sessed no other treasure, no other jewels witH 
which to adorn themselves, were compensated 
for their penury in other ways by these price- 
less gems of the most unselfish virtue. SucK 
conduct, of course, is not universal. There 
are abundant instances of the opposite. But 
the truth remains that it is the worth which 
those who seem to lead the least desirable 
lives display toward others that assures us of 
their own worth. This, too, is the lesson of 
the oft-quoted and oft-misunderstood parable 
of the Good Samaritan, upon which here, for 
the moment, I should like to dwell. 

The Jewish State in the time of Jesus was 
substantially an ecclesiastical aristocracy. 
The highest rank was occupied by the priests 
and their assessors, the Levites ; after them, 
sometimes disputing the first place, came the 
doctors learned in the sacred law ; below them 
the commonalty ; and still lower in the social 
scale were the people of Samaria, who ac- 
cepted the current Jewish religion only in 
part, and who were regarded by the blue- 


blood ecclesiastical aristocrats with con- 
tempt, indeed almost as outcasts. This 
fact it is necessary to remember in order to 
understand the parable. The desig^tion 
Good Samaritan has become so associated 
with the idea of mercifulness, that I doubt 
not there are many persons who have the 
impression that Samaritans in the ancient 
Hebrew days were people specially noted for 
their benevolent disposition. Nothing of the 
kind, of course, is true. The Samaritans were 
a despised lower stratum of the population of 
Palestine. Read the parable in this light, and 
you will perceive that the moral of it is not 
as commonly stated — every one who has 
need of me is my neighbor ; but that there is 
a far deeper meaning in it. 

There came to Jesus one day a man versed 
in the sacred law, and asked him what he 
must do to inherit eternal life. And Jesus 
replied: The substance of right conduct is 
plain enough. Why do you ask as if it were a 
thing very recondite and difficult ? Love thy 
God and thy neighbor. But the doctor of the 
sacred law, wishing to justify himself (wish- 
ing to show that the wayof the upright life is 


not so plain, that it may be difficult to decide 
whom one should regard as one's equal, to 
whom one should ascribe worth), asked: 
Who is my neighbor ? And Jesus replied in 
the words of the well-known parable con- 
cerning a certain man who had fallen among 
thieves, and these stripped him of his raiment 
and left him for dead on the public road that 
runs between Jerusalem and Jericho. Pres- 
ently a member of the high aristocracy, a 
priest, passed by, but paid no attention to 
the sufferer; then another, a Levite, came 
that way, looked at the man who was lying 
there helpless, and turned and went on 
his journey. Then there came one of those 
low-caste despised Samaritans; and he acted 
like a tender human brother, bound up the 
man's wounds, poured oil and wine into 
them, etc. And Jesus said: Which one of 
these three showed himself to be a neighbor 
to the man that had fallen among thieves? 
In which of the social classes did there appear 
to be the truest understanding of the conduct 
which moral duty requires of us toward our 
fellow-men — ^in the upper classes or in the 
lowest? And the answer evidently is — ^in 


the lowest. The point of the parable is that 
the Samaritan himself, whom priest and 
Levite and doctor of the law refused to 
regard as a neighbor, was worthy to be 
treated as a neighbor, because he under- 
stood, as they did not, how to treat others 
as neighbors. The lesson of the parable 
is a twofold one : not only that the wounded 
man lying untended on the road was a 
neighbor because of his need, but more es- 
pecially that the Samaritan was a neighbor 
because he responded to the need, and set an 
example of truly human behavior to those 
who had doubted whether, because of his ex- 
treme social degradation, he was himself to 
be regarded as human. 

The moral qualities in men, then, consti- 
tute their most universal title to respect, and 
these qualities we find in all social grades and 
among all races and nationalities. We find 
them among the Chinese, as their devoted 
family life, the honesty of their merchants, 
and the ethics of Confucius indicate. We 
find them among the negroes, not only in 
the case of exceptional persons like Booker 
Washington or Dubois or Atkinson, but 


also in the undistinguished life of many 
an obscure man and woman, whom to 
know more intimately is to learn to respect 
as a neighbor and a moral equal. What 
we need to build up our faith in human 
goodness is the clairvoyance that discerns 
the hidden treasures of character in others. 
And one other quality is indispensable for 
the moral appreciation of our neighbors, 
namely, the quality of humility. Strange as 
it may seem, the less we plume ourselves on 
our own goodness, the more we shall be 
ready to believe in the goodness of other 
people ; the more we realize the infinite nature 
of the moral ideal and our own distance from 
it, the more we shall esteem as of relatively 
small importance the distance that separates 
us from others, the slight extent to which we 
may morally surpass them. The more we 
are aware of our own frequent and serious 
shortcomings, the more, when we perceive 
the moral delinquencies of others, shall we 
recognize in their nature the same recupera- 
tive agency which we believe to be in our- 
selves, namely, the power of divine regenera- 
tion that can make all things new. If we 


regard ourselves as morally little and yet as 
never lost, we shall regard no one else as 
lost, however morally little he may seem 
to be. 

Respect, then, for the indefeasible worth 
of every human being must be based not on 
theological systems which are fast decaying, 
nor on the fancied self-evidence of Jefferson's 
Declaration, but solely on the moral law 
which commands us to ascribe such worth to 
others whether we perceive it or not, nay, to 
create it in others by ascribing it to them. 

Such is the spiritual attitude toward our 
fellow-men. And though our confidence may 
not always be demonstrably justified by the 
result, though we not always succeed in up- 
lifting others, yet by pursuing this line of 
conduct we ourselves at all events shall be 
uplifted, our own life will be touched to finer 



Sunday, Dec. 4, 1904. 


The problem of our spiritual attitude to- 
ward positive badness, social and individual 
wrongdoing, cruelty and oppression, is far 
more difficult of solution than the problem 
of our attitude toward worth really existent 
but concealed. The thorny question, how 
we are to deal with wicked persons, whether 
we are to observe the spiritual attitude to- 
ward them, and in what that attitude con- 
sists, requires the most sincere and straight- 
forward treatment. 

Should we cultivate an attitude of indifSfer- 
ence in such cases? A ruffian cruelly beats 
his horse, the poor beast that has rendered 


him faithful service for many a day, but is 
feeble now and sinks beneath its load. With 
curses and the sharp persuasion of the lash, 
the merciless driver seeks to force the animal 
to efforts of which it is plainly incapable. 
Can we stand by and witness such a scene in 
philosophic calm? Shall we say that the 
wretch is the product of circumstances, and 
cannot be expected to act otherwise than he 
does ? Shall we liken evildoers generally, as 
at present is customary in certain quarters, 
to the sick ? Shall we say that such men are 
the outcome of their heredity, their education, 
their environment ? I have known of a hus- 
band who in a state of intoxication brutally 
struck and injured his wife, while she was 
holding in her arms a babe not eight days 
old. Shall we say that that man was morally 
sick, that he could not help becoming intoxi- 
cated, and therefore was not responsible for 
the havoc he wrought when the demon of 
drink had gained possession of him? Shall 
we say of the S3mdicate of traders who hunt 
the natives on the Congo like rabbits, mas- 
sacre and mutilate them, that they are side? 
A bad deed done with intention argues bad- 


ness in the doer. We impute to the man 
the act and its consequences. We cannot 
separate the sin from the sinner, and merely 
condemn sin in the abstract. There is no 
such thing as sin in the abstract. Sin is 
sin only when it is incorporated in the will 
of a human individual. We condemn the 
sinner because he has wedded himself to 
the sin. If this were not the case, we 
might as well close our courts of justice. 
We hold men accountable, then, for their 
misdeeds, whatever speculative philosophy 
may urge to the contrary. How could we 
revere virtue if we did not stigmatize its 
opposite; how could we believe in human 
worth if we did not condemn unworth where 
it appears? 

But the ordinary judgment stops sfioft right 
here. It recognizes the particular badness 
of a particular act, and desires that the agent 
be made to suffer for it. It says, this act is 
the expression of an evil disposition, and it 
identifies the whole man with the particular 
act of which he was guilty. The spiritual at- 
titude is characterized by discriminating be- 
tween the particular act and the whole of the 


man's nature. It recognizes that there is an 
evil strand; but it also sees or divines the 
good that exists along with the evil, even in 
the most seemingly hopeless cases. It trusts 
to the good, and builds upon it with a view to 
making it paramount over evil. Upon the 
basis of this spiritual attitude, what should 
be our mode of dealing with the bad ? There 
are a number of steps to be taken in order, 
and much depends on our following the right 

The first step is to arrest the course of evil, 
to prevent its channel from being deepened, 
its area from being enlarged. Pluck the 
whip from the hand of the ruffian who is 
lashing his beast ; stay the arm that is uplifted 
to strike the cowardly murderous blow. 
Much has been said of the need of consider- 
ing the good of society, of protecting the 
community at large from the depredations of 
the violent and fraudulent; and of subjecting 
the latter to exemplary punishment, in order 
to deter others from following their example. 
But the welfare of society and the welfare 
of the criminal are always identical. Noth- 
ing should be done to the worst criminal, not 


a hair of his head should be touched merely 
for the sake of securing the public good, if 
the thing done be not also for his private 
good. And on the other hand, nothing can 
be done to the criminal which is for his own 
lasting good that will not also profoundly 
react for the good of society, assuring its 
security, and deterring others from a like 
career of crime. The very first claim which 
the criminal has upon the services of his fel- 
low-men is that they stop him in his head- 
long course of wickedness. Arrest, whether 
by the agents of the law or in some other 
way, is the first step. The most spiritual con- 
cern for a degraded and demoralized fellow- 
being does not exclude the sharp intervention 
implied in arrest, for the spiritual attitude is 
not mawkish or incompatible with the inflic- 
tion of pain. 

This, I think, will be readily granted. But 
the second step, a step far more important 
than the arrest of the evildoer in order to 
arrest the evildoing, is more likely to be 
contested and misunderstood. The second 
step consists in fixing the mark of shame 
upon the offender and publicly humiliating 


him by means of the solemn sentence of the 
judge. It may be asked, What human 
being is fit to exercise this awful office 
of acting as judge of another? Remember 
the words of Shakespeare in King Lear: 
". . . . See how yond justice rails upon yond 
simple thief. Hark in thine ear: change 
places; and .... which is the justice, 
which the thief?" Or recall what the 
Puritan preacher said when he saw from 
his window a culprit being led to the gal- 
lows: "There, but for the grace of God, 
go I." In other words, had I been bom 
as this man was, had I been played upon by 
the influences to which he was subject, had 
I been tempted as he was, how dare I say 
that I should not have fallen as he did ? Had 
It not been for some grace extended to me 
through no desert of mine, I might be travel- 
ing the road on which he travels now. 

Furthermore, can we say that the sentence 
of the judge is proportioned to the heinous- 
ness of the deed ? Is the murderer who in a 
fit of uncontrolled passion has taken a human 
life — it may have been his first and only 
crime — ^necessarily more depraved than the 


thief ; or is the thief in jail who has indeed 
broken the law, necessarily more depraved 
than numbers of others who have dexterously 
circumvented the law, violating the spirit 
though keeping within the letter of it? Is 
even the abject creature who strikes his wife 
more abandoned than a man of the type of 
Grandcourt in Daniel Deronda, whose insults 
are dealt with a marble politeness, and who 
crushes his wife's sensibilities, not with a 
vulgar blow but with the cold and calculating 
cruelty of a cynic ? When it comes to passing 
moral judgments and fixing blame, and espe- 
cially to measuring the degree of another's 
guilt, who of us is good enough, who of us 
is pure enough, who of us is himself free 
enough from wrong to exercise so terrible an 
office ? Is not Lear right, after all : ". . . . 
change places ; and .... which is the jus- 
tice, which is the thief?" 

It may be said in reply to these objections : 
First, that the judge does not speak in his 
private capacity, but that he delivers the 
judgment of mankind on the doer and the 
deed, serving as the mouthpiece of the moral 
law, so far as it is incorporated in the human 


law. We should select the highest characters 
available for so exalted a duty, but freedom 
from even great human infirmity we cannot 
expect to find. Again, it is not the judge's 
business to fix the degree of moral g^ilt; 
that not even the best and wisest of men can 
do. The inscrutable fact of the degree of 
moral g^ilt eludes all human insight. Only 
omniscience could decide who is more guilty 
relatively to opportunities, advantages, cir- 
cumstances ; who has made the braver effort 
to escape wrongdoing; whether the admired 
preacher, or the culprit on his way to the 
gallows ; whether the President in the White 
House or the wretch behind the bars. The 
office of the judge is to pronounce that crime 
has been committed, irrespective of the subtle 
question of the degree of guilt. Murder has 
been done, property has been stolen, the! sin 
and the sinner wedded together. The office 
of the judge is to declare the fact of that 
infelicitous union, and to pronounce the pen- 
alty according to the law. And this, in 
particular. The object of the punishment 
which the law pronounces is not vindictive 
chastisement of the culprit. The object of 


punishment is purely reformatory. Only it 
must not be forgotten that there can be no 
reformation without penitence, and no peni- 
tence without self-abasement. And this con- 
sists in confessing one's self guilty, admit- 
ting that the guilt has become a part of 
one's being, and humbling one's pride to 
the ground. The public sentence pronounced 
by the judge, the shame which he fixes upon 
the culprit, has, then, for its object to pave 
the way toward reformation, to break down 
the defences which the sophistry of wicked- 
ness sets up, to compel the man to see himself 
as others see him, to force him to realize to 
the full the evil of his present state. Not to 
blast him utterly, not to exclude him forever 
from the kindly society of men, but to lead 
him intoi the way along which — if he travel 
it — ^he may eventually return, though per- 
haps only after many years, to human fel- 
lowship. If the verdict is pronounced in any 
other spirit, it is false and inhuman. The 
methods to be employed to bring about refor- 
mation must often be severe and painful, and 
one of these methods is shock, shock sharp 
and sudden enough to loosen the incrusta- 


tions of evil habit, and to shake a wicked 
nature down to its foundations. The pur- 
pose of the trial of a criminal in a court of 
justice, and of the verdict in which the trial 
culminates, is to supply such a shock, a 
searching and terrible experience, yet salu- 
tary and indispensable in order that better 
things may ensue. 

From what has been said, it follows that 
the death penalty as a punishment even for 
the worst crimes is morally untenable; for 
either the culprit is really irredeemable, that 
is to say, he is an irresponsible moral idiot, 
in which case an asylum for the insane 
is the proper place for him; or he is not 
irredeemable, in which case the chance of 
reformation should not be taken from him by 
cutting off his life. The death penalty is the 
last lingering vestige of the Lex Tcdionis, 
of the law which attempts to equalize the 
penalty with the crime, a conception of jus- 
tice which in all other respects we have hap- 
pily outgrown. It does not necessarily follow 
that the immediate abolition of capital pun- 
ishment is expedient. It is not expedient in 
fact, because of the condition of our prisons, 


and because of the abuses to which the par- 
doning power of the State is subjected; be- 
cause security is lacking that the worst of- 
fenders, before ever they can be reclaimed, 
may not be returned unrepentant into the 
bosom of society, to prey upon it anew with 
impunity. But, then, we must not defend the 
death penalty as such, but rather deplore and 
do our utmost to change our political condi- 
tions, which make it still unwise to abolish 
a form of punishment so barbarous and so 
repugnant to the moral sense. 

The step which follows the arrest and con- 
demnation of the evildoer is isolation, with 
a view to the formation of new habits. A 
change of heart is the necessary pre-requisite 
of any permanent change in conduct ; but the 
change of heart, and the resolution to turn 
over a new leaf to which it gives birth, must 
be gradually and slowly worked out into a 
corresponding practice. The old body of sin 
cannot be stripped ofif in a moment; the old 
encumbrance of bad habits cannot be sloughed 
off like a serpent's coil. The new spirit must 
incorporate itself slowly in new habits; and 
to this end the delinquent must be aided in 


his efforts by a more or less prolonged ab- 
sence from the scene of his former tempta- 
tions. He must be placed in an entirely new 
and suitable environment, and encouraging 
pressure must be exerted upon him to acquire 
new habits of order, diligent application to 
work, obedience, self-control. It is upon this 
idea that the moral propriety of imprison- 
ment and of prison discipline is based, 
whether the actual treatment of prisoners 
be in accord with it or not. 

And so we may pass on at once to the last 
and chief element in the process of the recla- 
mation of the evildoer, namely, forgiveness. 
An angel's tongue, the wisdom and in- 
sight of the loftiest of the sages, would be 
required to describe all the wealth of mean- 
ing contained in the sublime spiritual process 
which we desigtiate by the word pardon. It 
is a process which affects equally both par- 
ties to the act, the one who forgpives and the 
one who is forgiven. It exalts both, trans- 
figures both, indeed establishes a new tie of 
wonderful tenderness and sublimity between 
them. The person who forgives is a bene- 


Is it a little thing, when a man is sunk in 
the slough of poverty, denuded of all the 
decencies of life, harassed day and night by 
grinding cares, knows not whither to turn 
to find shelter and food, for some fellow 
human being, moved by pure human kind- 
ness, or let us rather say moved by respect 
for the worth which he sees in his perishing 
f dlow-man, to come to the aid of the latter, 
to lift him out of his distress, to place him 
on sun-lit levels, to put him on his feet and 
give him a new chance, to open for him 
a new career in which effort may meet 
with its reward? Such an act of human 
helpfulness is not a little thing; the man 
who does it is rightly esteemed a great ben- 
efactor. Or is it a little thing to save the 
imperiled sick, to bring back from the brink 
of the grave a precious life, already despaired 
of ? This, too, surely is not a little thing, and 
the good physician who accomplishes such a 
miracle is rightly esteemed a benefactor to 
whom lifelong gratitude is due. 

But there is a yet greater thing, a benefit, 
by the side of which even these — ^great as 
they are — appear almost insignificant. To 


take a man who is sinking in the moral 
slough and has no courage left to rise out 
of it; to give him back his lost self- 
esteem, that jewel without which health and 
wealth are of little avail; to put him in a 
position once more to look his fellow-men 
straight in the eye ; to place him morally on 
the sun-lit levels; to put him morally on his 
feet — ^this assuredly is the supreme benefit, 
and the man who accomplishes this for 
another is the supreme benefactor. And 
a note of exquisite moral beauty is added 
if the benefactor be the same person whom 
the guilty man had injured. This is 
what is meant by forgiveness. This is 
why forgiveness is so divine a thing. This 
is the reason why, when an act of genu- 
ine forgiveness occurs, "the music of the 
spheres" seems to become audible in our 
nether world. And this is also the reason 
why we often see such a strange kind 
of tie springing up between a person who 
has been chastised and the one who has 
chastised him in the right spirit and then 
forgiven him — a tie into which there enters 
shame for the wrong done, gratitude for the 


unmerited good received, and a reverence 
akin to idolatry toward the one upon whose 
faith in him the sinner rebuilt his faith in 

There should be some organ of the State 
to exercise this office of forgiveness toward 
criminals, this pardoning power in the finer 
sense of the term. The prison warden, if he 
be a man of the right stamp, sometimes exer- 
cises it. The Society for the Befriending of 
Released Prisoners has here an appropriate 
function open to it; also the employer who 
after due inquiry has the courage to dismiss 
suspicion and to g^ve work to the released 

The methods and principles which I have 
described in the case of the criminal are used 
for illustration, not that I am interested to- 
day in discussing the special problem of the 
criminal, but because principles can best be 
exemplified in extreme cases. The same 
methods, the same maxims should control 
punishment in general ; our dealings, for in- 
stance, with the misdeeds of which oiu* own 
children are guilty. Here, too, there should 
be by no means unvarying gentleness and 


pleading, but when need arises the sharp 
check, that evil may be instantaneously- 
stopped. Here, too, there should be the tem- 
porary disgrace, the clear presentation of the 
magnitude of the fault, if it have magnitude, 
the humiliation that calls forth penitence and 
good resolutions. Here, too, there should be 
sedulous care, to work out the better habits. 
And all these steps should be taken with a 
view to ultimate reconciliation, forgiveness, 
and the holier bond between parent and child. 
But now can we take one step further? 
Can we dispose our minds and our hearts in 
the same fashion toward oppressors ? I have 
in mind, for instance, the hard proprietors of 
houses who pitilessly wring the last penny 
from their tenants; the cruel taskmasters 
who drive the workers, sometimes only chil- 
dren not yet full-grown, twelve and fifteen 
hours a day; the unscrupulous exploiters on 
a large scale, who raise the price of the peo- 
ple's food, and in their eagerness for fabulous 
gain conspire by every corrupt means to 
crush their less crafty or less shameless com- 
petitors. As we hate wrong, must we not 
hate them? Shall we assail greed and ex- 


ploitation merely in the abstract? What 
effect will that have ? Which one of the op- 
pressors will not hypocritically assent to such 
abstract denunciation? If we seek to pro- 
duce a change, must we not proceed to more 
specific allegations and point the finger of 
scorn at the offenders, saying as the Prophet 
Nathan said to King David : "Thou art the 
man"? Is it not necessary to arouse the 
popular anger against the oppressors and to 
encourage hatred against the hateful ? 

Clearly the case is not the same as that of 
the criminal in the dock. He stands there 
dishonored ; the evil he has done has been 
brought home to him ; he is covered with the 
garment of shame. But those others are in- 
vested — despite the evil they have done and 
are still doing — ^with every outward symbol 
of success ; they triumph defiantly over the 
better moral sense of the community; they 
inhabit, as it were, impregnable citadels ; they 
have harvested unholy gains which no one 
seems strong enough to take from them; 
and the influence they wield in consequence 
of their power to benefit or harm is immense. 
Is it a wonder, then, that such oppressors are 


branded as monsters, and that the hoarse 
note of some of the Hebrew psalms is some- 
times to be heard re-echoing in the cry of 
the social radicals of our time — ^Let venge- 
ance be visited upon the wicked; let the op- 
pressors be destroyed from the face of the 

But the logical and inevitable conclusion 
of the thought I have developed to-day is, 
that we are bound to recognize the indefeas- 
ible worth latent even in the cruel exploiter 
and the merciless expropriator. I have al- 
ready sufficiently indicated that the spiritual 
view is consistent with severe and stringent 
treatment. Checks there should be by the 
heavy hand of legislation laid upon the arro- 
gant evildoers. They should be stopped if 
possible in mid-career. The oppressed, also, 
should oppose those who oppress them. No 
one is worth his salt who is not willing 
to defend his rights against those who would 
trample on them. So far from ruling out 
conflict, I regard conflict as a weapon of 
progress — ^an ethical weapon, if it be waged 
with the right intentions. Furthermore, 
when speaking of oppression, I have in mind 


not merely the cupidity of the few as it 
operates mercilessly upon the many, but also 
the banded arrogance of the many as it some- 
times displays itself in contempt for the 
rights of the few. From whichever side op- 
pression proceeds, there should be resistance 
to it; the check imposed by resistance is one 
of the means of educating to new habits those 
who find themselves checked. Individuals, 
and social classes, too, as history proves, 
learn to respect the rights which they find 
in practice they cannot traverse. First come 
the limits set to the aggression, and then the 
opening of the eyes to perceive the justice of 
the limitation. But conflict is an ethical 
weapon only if it is wielded like the knife 
in the surgeon's hands. The knife wounds 
and hurts; the method is apparently cruel; 
but the purpose is benevolent. So should the 
battle of social reform be animated by con- 
cern not only for the oppressed, but also for 
the oppressor. And such a motive does not 
exceed the capacity of human nature, but, on 
the contrary, is the only motive which will 
permanently satisfy human nature. Certain 
of the Socialists have made it their deliberate 


policy for years to stir up hatred between the 
poor and the rich, on the ground that hatred 
alone can overcome the lethargy of the 
masses and arouse in them the intensity of 
feeling necessary for conflict. On the con- 
trary, hatred engenders hatred on the oppo- 
site side, action provokes reaction. As the 
individual can be uplifted in his life only by 
accepting the spiritual motive, by trying to 
act always so as to recognize in others and 
to make manifest the indefeasible worth 
of the human soul, so the social classes can 
be uplifted only by acting on the same spir- 
itual motive. Despite the efforts of a hun- 
dred years, the real progress that has been 
achieved in ameliorating the relations be- 
tween the social classes at the present day is 
slight, and sometimes one is impelled to doubt 
whether there has been any progress at all. 
The egotism of one side is met by the ego- 
tism of the other side. But appeals to mass 
egotism will no more elevate mankind, than 
appeals to individual egotism. Appeals to 
sympathy also will not permanently help. 
Only the highest motive of all can furnish the 
power needed to accomplish the miracle of 


social transformation; only that conflict 
which is waged for the purpose not of strik- 
ing down the oppressor and rescuing his vic- 
tim, but for the rescue of both the victim 
and the oppressor, will attain its end. 

The oppressor may be regarded as a man 
who has consented so to degrade himself as 
to become for the time being a heartless au- 
tomaton, ruthlessly working for gain, a being 
like one of those terrible ogres of the popular 
mythology who feed on human flesh. But 
he is not a mere automaton or og^e. There 
is a better side to his nature, as we often 
discover, to our amazement, when we learn 
about the facts of his private life. These 
private virtues do not indeed condone his 
social sins — far from it — ^but they indicate 
that there exists a better side. If that side 
could be made victorious, if conditions could 
be shaped so as to starve out the worse 
nature and bring to the fore the better naiture 
in the oppressor as well as in the oppressed, 
the problem would be advanced toward a 

There is a story told of two brothers, sons 
of the same father, who grew up in the same 


home and were deeply attached to each other. 
It happened that the older wandered away 
and fell into the power of an evil magi- 
cian, who changed him into a ravening wolf. 
The younger mourned his loss, and treasured 
in his heart the image of the brother as he 
had been in the days before the wicked spell 
fell upon him. Impelled by his longing, he at 
last went out into the world to find his 
brother, and if possible to redeem him. One 
day as he passed through a lonely forest, a- 
hungry wolf set upon him. The horrid, 
brutal face was near to his, the hot breath 
breathed upon him, and the fierce eyes flamed 
into his own. But by the might of his love, 
the younger brother was able to detect be- 
neath the wolfish disguise the fainit outlines 
of the brother whom he had long ago lost, 
and by the strength of his gaze, which saw 
only the brother and refused to see the wolf, 
he was able to give shape and substance to 
that faint outline. The outer frame of brut- 
ishness gradually melted away, and the 
human brother was restored to his senses 
and to his home. This is a parable of the 
spiritual attitude toward oppressors^ toward 


those who oppress the people in public, as 
well as toward those who oppress us in our 
private lives. We must liberate them from 
the brutal frame in which they are inclosed ; 
we must give them back their human shape ! 



Sunday, Dec. ii, 1904. 



Painful and revolting associations are 
called up by the phrase — "leading the double 
life/' To the aversion provoked by the evil 
itself, is added in such cases the disgust ex- 
cited by the hypocrisy with which it is 
cloaked. He who leads a double life offends 
not only by the wrong he does, but by bor- 
rowing the plumes of virtue. He lives a 
perpetual lie; he is "a whited sepulchre, clean 
on the outside, full of filth and corruption 
within." The Beecher trial at the time so 
profoundly agitated the whole country, be- 
cause the accusations brought forward asso- 
ciated the name of one of the most promi- 
nent characters of the nation, a man of bril- 


Hant talent and meritorious service, with 
secret impurity. The more meritorious such 
a man's services, the more damning the 
charges if they be established. Nor do we 
admit in such cases the sophistical argument, 
that the interests of public morality require 
the facts to be hushed up in order to avoid a 
scandal. Nothing is so imperative where 
guilt really exists as that it be confessed and 
expiated. The public conscience requires the 
truth. Let the sinner make a clean breast 
of it; let the atmosphere be cleared by an 
act of public humiliation. No injury to the 
cause of public morality is so great as the 
lurking suspicion that men who stand forth 
as exponents of morality are themselves cor- 
rupt. Lurking suspicion, distrust of all the 
moral values, is worse than recognition of 
hirnian weakness, however deplorable. 

There are other examples of the double 
life, with which all who have knowledge of 
the world's ways are familiar. That of the 
merchant, for instance, who, though he has 
long been virtually a bankrupt, conceals his 
position behind a screen of opulence, emulat- 
ing the sumptuous expenditure of the rich, 


living a life of glittering show; tortured in- 
wardly by the fear of exposure, yet not cour- 
ageous enough to be honest ; sinking deeper 
himself and, what is worse, dragging others 
down with him. A young man at college 
sometimes leads a double life, his letters 
home being filled with accounts of his legiti- 
mate employments, while at the same time 
he is leading the life of the prodigal, the 
spendthrift, the dissipated sot. 

The dual life has been depicted in powerful 
colors by poets and writers of fiction ; as, for 
instance, by Hawthorne in his "Scarlet Let- 
ter," by Robert Louis Stevenson in his "Doc- 
tor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.'' I suppose if there 
be such a thing as hell on earth, the double 
life is another name for it. Yet I know of 
no writer of fiction whose plummet has 
sounded the depths of this hell. In Steven- 
son's story one gets the impression of a too 
mechanical separation between the two sides. 
The man is at one moment the benevolent 
doctor, and at another the malignant fiend. 
The device of the drug is introduced to ex- 
plain the transition ; but the transformation 
is too sudden, too abrupt. Jekyll and Hyde 


dwell side by side in the same body, and the 
relaitions between them have not been 
wrought out with sufficient subtlety. It is 
rather a broad moral parable than a subtle 
study of man's dual nature. 

The initial point I desire to make is, that 
in certain cases the inner torture and anguish 
of the dual life can only be ended by publish- 
ing the secret, so long and jealously hidden. 
Just as the criminal must stand judgment in 
a court of law, so must the double-minded 
man stand judgment in the court of public 
opinion. It is not possible to determine by 
a hard and fast line, when such exposure is 
obligatory ; but in general it may be said that 
it is required in those cases where publicity 
is necessary to set things right and to repair 
the wrong that has been done to others. 

There are, however, cases in which others 
are not affected, or only indirectly so; in 
which the evil relates to the personal life and 
its consequences are private to the man him- 
self. The situation is such as is described by 
Goethe, when he speaks of the two souls 
dwelling within the human breast ; the soul 
itself in its own sphere being divided against 


itself. The man is conscious of rectitude in 
one part of his conduct, of magnanimous im- 
pulses, of high and noble aspirations. He 
feels himself allied on one side to what is best 
and purest, and at the same time is aware of 
another side which in his saner moments 
fills him with loathing, and poisons for him 
life's cup of satisfaction. It is of this class 
of cases that I propose to speak. And here 
the terrible fact stares us in the face, that if 
the dual life be interpreted in this sense, there 
is hardly a man who is not leading it. Even 
the best of men have been aware of an abhor- 
rent side of their nature. What else can St. 
Paul mean when he speaks of the continual 
warfare between the two laws — ^**the law of 
the flesh that is in his members, and the law 
of God that is in his spirit" ? What else do 
the confessions of St. Augustine reveal but 
the continual oscillations of a finely poised 
nature between the two extremes? What 
else can we gather from certain passages in 
Tennyson's writings, but hints of a miserable 
and grievous struggle of the same sort ? And 
what an intolerable burden to any person of 
integrity, to any one who would at least be 


honest, to think that he passes for better than 
he is, to think that if men only could see his 
heart as he sees it, they would pass him by 
with scorn instead of admiration ! Yet as a 
rule, in such cases self-revelation is not only 
not demanded, but not even allowable. The 
opening of the secret chambers of one's life 
to the public, confessions like those of Rous- 
seau, are, if anything, indecent and nauseat- 
ing. The case of a man in such situations is 
bad enough, but the remedy for it is perforce 
committed to his own hands. Let him put his 
hand to the plough and not turn back, let him 
grapple with the evil in his nature and sub- 
due and transform it, let him accomplish his 
inner redemption, let him make himself what 
he ought to be — ^what others perhaps think 
he is. What aid can the spiritual view of life 
extend to him in this stupendous business? 
The cardinal thought I have in mind, 
which I believe will provide an escape from 
such intolerable moral dilemmas, can best be 
set forth by contrasting it with its diametri- 
cal opposite. This opposite is contained in 
the Buddhistic doctrine of the Karma. The 
doctrine of Karma implies that we are what 


we are to-day, good or bad, or good and bad, 
in consequence of good or bad deeds which 
we performed in previous states of existence. 
Our present Hfe, according to this view, 
is but a link added to the chain of the 
innumerable lives which we have left be- 
hind us. It is true, we do not remember 
those past existences; but all the same, 
they have left their indelible mark upon 
us. Our fortunes, too, in this present exist- 
ence, are determined by our meritorious or 
unmeritorious behavior in the past. If, for 
example, a man acts as your enemy to-day, 
it is because in a previous state you wantonly 
injured him or some one like him. Bear 
your disappointments, then, and the harm 
you receive from others without complaint; 
you are but suffering the penalty you deserve. 
Not only our fortune but our character, as 
has been said, is thus predetermined; we are 
what we are, in virtue of what we have been. 
If a man is a mean miser, it is because in a 
previous existence he was already unduly 
covetous of wealth. 'Tis but the seed he 
sowed in the past, that blossoms out in the 
present. If a man commit murder, it is be- 


cause he was already guilty of unchecked vio- 
lence in previous lives. The begpinnings 
which he made in the past culminate in the 
awful present^ 

This is indeed a plausible theory, and it 
would help us to read some dark riddles if it 
were true, but there is not the slightest reason 
for supposing that it is. If ever there was a 
theory in the air, this is one. We not only 
have no recollections of any past incarna- 
tions, but we have no ground for inferring 
that there were any. I have mentioned the 
theory merely in order to exhibit its opposite. 
And the opposite is this : that a man is not 
responsible for the attractive or repulsive 
qualities with which he is born; that 
these are not to be accounted as his, in 
the sense that he is accountable for them. 
The son of the dipsomaniac, for instance, is 
not responsible for the morbid craving that 
stirs in him. He begins life, so far as re- 
sponsibility is concerned, so far as merit or 
demerit is concerned, with a fresh start. He 
is not responsible for the craving; he is re- 
sponsible only for assenting to it. True, the 
pull in his case is incomparably stronger 


than in others ; still he can resist. He is re- 
sponsible, not for the hideous thing itself, 
but for the degree in which he yields to it. 
He is meritorious to the extent of the effort 
he puts forth not to yield to it. The reason 
why this point is often obscured is that from 
the first awakening of consciousness, from 
the time when first we have been capable of 
deliberate choice, we have more or less often 
assented to these evil propulsions and have 
thus made them our own. It has therefore 
become impossible to separate clearly be- 
tween that element in our acts which is im- 
posed upon us from without, and that delib- 
erate element in the act which is our own. 
Nevertheless, no fair-minded person will 
dispute that there are qualities or predisposi- 
tions, for which — hideous as they may be — 
we are no more responsible than we are for 
being born with an unprepossessing face. 
Men are born with certain attractive quali- 
ties and certain atrocious qualities, but moral 
goodness and badness consists not in having 
these predispositions, but rather in consent- 
ing to them and adopting them into our will. 
Now this, it seems to me, throws an en- 


tirdy new light upon the duality of our inner 
life. The fact that we discover that there is 
baseness within us from which we recoil as 
we should from a venomous snake, need not 
shake our throne of reason or overthrow our 
balance. These base things are not we ; our 
true self does not reside in them, until, in- 
deed, we unite with them by assenting to 
them. A man's natural propensities are mot- 
ley, but his soul is white. One hears much 
nowadays of the "white man's burden." 
There is such a thing as the white soul's 
burden. These dipsomaniac cravings with 
which some men are handicapped, these ex- 
plosive irascibilities with which some are ac- 
cursed, these tendencies to impurity with 
which others are defiled^ — ^these are the white 
soul's burden. Some men are more heavily 
burdened than others. But it is not the 
nature of the burden that makes men good 
or bad ; it is the way they bear it, or rather it 
is the extent to which they transform this 
initial nature of theirs into a better nature. 
There is a distinction between the natural 
character and the moral character ; the moral 
character results from the changes produced 


in the natural character, by the power of the 
moral will, or by the energy of the soul striv- 
ing to imprint its nobler pattern on this diffi- 
cult, oft intractable material. 

But if we are not blameworthy for the re- 
pellant propensities, neither are we praise- 
worthy on account of the attractive and gra- 
cious qualities we may possess. The state of 
mind of one who is conscious of a divided 
inner life is torture. Nothing but an heroic 
treatment, nothing but a radical cure will 
free him from that torture; the cure is to 
realize that our seeming virtues are often not 
virtues at all. We must sacrifice our fancied 
virtues, if we would escape from the horrid 
sense of utter depravity that arises from our 
vices. A man puts to himself the question : 
How is it possible that at one moment I 
should be S3rmpathetic and kind, should strive 
to compass the happiness of my fellow- 
beings, should take a generous interest in 
public causes, and try to act justly ; and that 
at another moment I am so selfish and base? 
How can there be this oscillation from one 
pole to the other of human character? It is 
the contradiction that makes the tragedy. 


Am I, too, not "truly one but truly two"; 
am I, too, a Jekyll and a Hyde, both dwelling 
under the same skin ? The answer is : You 
are neither the Hyde nor the Jekyll unless 
you elect to be. The true self is a principle 
in you superior to both these natural charac- 
ters, a kind of oversoul, as Emerson puts it. 

Sympathy and kindness lend themselves to 
the building up of a virtuous character, they 
are the psychological bases of virtue, but they 
must not be confounded with virtue itself. 
Taken by themselves, they represent merely 
a felicitous mixture of the elements of which 
we are compounded, no more praiseworthy 
than their opposites are blameworthy. Sym- 
pathy and kindness must be governed and 
regulated by principle, if they are to be rated 
as moral qualities. Left uncultivated, they 
often produce positively immoral results. 
Likewise, what is called justice is often no 
more than a hard adherence to rules, a love of 
order in our relations to others, which must 
be tempered and softened by the quality of 
mercy, before it can be accounted a moral 
virtue. Again, a willingness to advance the 
interests of a class or of a people is often no 


more than an enlarged egotism, with most 
of the defects of the narrower egotism, and 
must be regulated by a moral principle, if it 
is to attain to the dignity of a moral attribute. 
It is only by the conformity of our thoughts, 
our feelings, and our acts to principle, that 
morality is achieved. It is only by such 
means that the genial and attractive tenden- 
cies of our nature are converted into genuine 
virtues, and the way of escape from the 
double life is along the line of the moral 
transformation of otu: seeming virtues. 
Mend your virfiies, and your vices will take 
care of themselves. 

But if the illusion is dispelled that the 
goodness or badness of an action as it appears 
to the eye is the measure of the virtuousness 
or viciousness of the agent ; if the principle 
that governs the act and the effort put forth 
to conform to the principle be recognized as 
the true standard by which we are to judge, 
then two consequences will follow with re- 
spect to the conduct of life. The first is that 
the seemingly petty occasions of life are to 
be treated as grand occasions in so far as a 
moral principle is involved. For instance, a 


petty falsehood spoken for the purpose of 
securing business advantage or of avoiding 
business loss may seem to the average man a 
trivial affair ; and it is so, so far as the results 
are concerned. And yet a morally high-bred 
man could no more condescend to such a 
falsehood than a man of cleanly habits would 
willingly steep himself in the mire. It is 
not the consequences, one way or the other, 
that matter. It is the eternal issue between 
the moral realities, truth and untruth, that is 
at stake. And in the light of this issue, in 
the light of the principle involved, petty as 
the circumstances may be, the occasion is not 
to be considered trivial. The eternal forces 
that have been at war since mankind first 
existed are at war on this occasion also; 
he must cast in his lot on the side of the 

Another instance of action seemingly triv- 
ial is that of simulating a personal interest 
in others, of pretending agreement in the 
foibles of others or of affecting a per- 
sonal homage which one does not fed, in 
order to use others as instruments for the 
achievement of one's ends, whether those 


ends be selfish pecuniary advantage or politi- 
cal preferment, or even financial aid and sup- 
port for some important philanthropic enter- 
prise. As if philanthropy — ^which is based 
on respect for the worth of man — did not 
defeat its own ends, the moment it seeks 
to accomplish them by methods which de- 
grade both him who gives and him who 
receives. The occasion is small, but the 
principle involved as to the choice of means 
is great. Another instance relates to the 
degree to which we may trench upon the 
personality of others, or seek to enter into 
that part of their life which they keep secret 
from us. We may suspect, for instance, that 
a friend is oppressed by some secret trouble, 
and we may believe that we could help him 
if only he would consent to reveal himself; 
but the act of sdf-revelation must come from 
his side, and the permission to help him must 
first be granted. We may give him the 
opportunity to declare himself, but we may 
not invade the sanctuary of his silence. The 
principle involved is great; it is that of re- 
spect for the precincts within which every 
soul has the right to live its own life. 


And there are other illustrations in abun- 
dance that might be quoted. For instance, 
custom prescribes rules of behavior in re- 
spect to many things which are really indif- 
ferent; in regard to the cut of the clothes 
we wear, in regard to the accepted form of 
salutation, in regard to the language of polite 
speech, and much more of the same sort. 
Now, the ethically-minded man is not a 
pedantic micrologist who wastes his time on 
the minutiae of conduct. But where custom 
relates to things not indifferent, where a 
principle is involved, there is no detail of 
conduct so minute as not to challenge the 
most vigorous protest, the utmost asser- 
tion of independence. The ethically-minded 
man is one who endeavors to shake off the 
yoke of custom, wherever it interferes with 
the affirmation of the great principles of life; 
who disdains to follow the multitude in doing 
not only what is palpably wrong, but what 
is morally unfine. He seeks to be a free 
man, an independent being, and to assert 
without acrimony or invidious criticism of 
others, yet firmly and unflinchingly, a strong 
and sdf-poised manhood. This, then, is one 


consequence that flows from our point of 
view : namely, that in the moral sphere the 
small occasions are to be treated as if they 
were grand occasions. As the poet puts it, 
"Rightly to be great is not to stir without 
great argument, but greatly to find quarrel 
in a straw when honor is at stake," or, as 
we should put it, greatly to find quarrel 
in the straws of life when principle is at 

And the second consequence is the obverse 
of this : To treat what seem to be great oc- 
casions because of their outward results, as 
if they were small. Is it a fortime that smiles 
upon you, that you can win by suppressing a 
moral scruple, by transgressing the eternal 
law? Put it aside as a thing not worth a 
second glance, if the price exacted be the loss 
of self-respect, if the bargain to which you 
must subscribe be the betrayal of principle. 
Is it life itself that is at stake ; the dear life 
to which we cling so fondly? Yes, life is 
precious in its nobler uses ; but life itself shall 
not be esteemed as great in the hour in which 
we must choose between it and fidelity to 
principle. And that it is really possible to 


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