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Not by eastern windows only, affairs; but as observers of the prevaWhen daylight comes, comes in the lent phenomena of public life we have
light, In front the sun climbs slow-how
to acknowledge that
amid many slowly!
doubtful signs the one thing which But westward, look, the land is stands out clearly in this evolutionary bright.
A. H. Clough.
process is that a thousand years are
but as one day, so slow is the rate of The subject of this article is the slow advancement. growth of moral influence in political It might even be maintained, with affairs, and the practical question that some show of reason, that while in rises out of it and haunts the mind of Christian countries and under Chrisevery educated and thoughtful person tian influences individual morality has -how best to expedite and invigorate risen as never before or elsewhere, pubthis slow growth.
lic or political moral standards rose Bearing in mind that the teaching of more rapidly in Israel under the Old the New Testament is professedly ac
Testament covenant, and this because cepted by most of us as furnishing the of the untiring insistence and emphasis imperative rules and standards of moral with which the great national prophets conduct, and that it has been so ac- preached the duty of national rightcepted in Europe for many centuries, eousness and kept the living God before and setting over against this fact the the eyes and mind of the people as the prevalent opinions, aims and standards Judge of all national and corporate of action that meet us everywhere, in life. any country, alike in the language and But, however this may be, there temper of leading statesmen, in the stands before us the plain fact, and it tone of the press and of public opinion, is a fact far too generally disregarded in party politics, in national policy and or ignored, that after eighteen centuries in international relationships, there can of Christian teaching and influence in be no doubt as to the slowness of the Europe, a great deal of our public life, growth.
both at home and abroad, although in As Christians we believe that the the hands of Christian statesmen, is to moral principles of the Sermon on the all practical intents and purposes still Mount are destined to become the dom- carried on as if the Sermon on the inating influence in public as in private Mount had never been spoken, and
The Slow Growth of Moral Influence in Politics.
only the lower or selfish motives had a rightful claim to exercise dominion in practical affairs.
It is not that action and practice are constantly falling short of the acknowledged and accepted standard of ethical duty. This we should expect to occur in public as in private matters.
The point is that honest and good men do not seem to recognize those standards of ethical judgment which they accept without question in private life, as having the same claim on their allegiance in the arena of politics, or in the relationships of nations. “Blindness in part is happened to Israel."
We turn, for instance, to that sphere which furnishes the most glaring instances of this strange inconsistency, the sphere of international politics.
In these we see how again and again, there is hardly more than a thinly veiled pretence of any appeal to the higher standards of ethical obligation, or to the spirit of Christianity.
The terms in which national or imperial aims and policy are defined and the spirit in which international affairs are conducted are such as to make it only too plain that the whole structure of foreign politics, and also a great part of internal politics, are built upon a foundation of selfishness, jealousy, rivalry, greed of power and wealth, and not upon any higher or Christian basis.
Thus twenty-six centuries after the prophet Isaiah, twenty-three centuries after Socrates, and nineteen centuries after the Manifestation of Christ, we see, so to speak, whole continents of life, opinion and practice, still under the dominion of that spirit of selfish greed which St. Paul denounced as pleonexia, and held up to view as lying very near to the root of all that is vicious in human life.
By way of illustration reference might be made to many contemporary
events or to events within the memory of most of us; but it may suffice to note the impression made by the current phenomena of public affairs on some of the great writers and thinkers.
Mr. Herbert Spencer has forcibly reminded us that men seem to give their allegiance, as it were, to two religions, the religion of amity and the religion of enmity, for use in different depart. ments of life and conduct. The real homage is paid in large measure, if not in the larger measure, to the code dictated by enmity.
From the books of the New Testament we take our religion of amity. Greek and Latin epics and histories serve as gospels for our religion of enmity.
In the education of our youth we devote a small portion of time to the one, and a large portion of time to the other.
A priori it might be thought impossible that men should continue through life holding two doctrines which are mutually destructive. But this ability to compromise between conflicting beliefs is very remarkable.
A boy, while growing up, acquires in common with all around him the habit of living by first one and then the other of his creeds, as the occasion may demand; and so great is the power of custom that he does this in ordinary cases without any distinct feeling of inconsistency, and by the time that he reaches maturity the habit has been established in his life. So educated, he will enlarge at one moment on the need of maintaining the national honor, and he thinks it derogatory or unpatriotic or mean to arbitrate about an aggression, trespass, or difference, instead of avenging it by war; at another moment he calls his household together and leads them in the beautiful prayer in which he asks God to forgive his
1 Study of Sociology.
trespasses as he forgives those that we read the sentiments that pervade as trespass against him. That spirit which great portion of the newspaper press, he prays for as a virtue on Sunday, or and the language used by some leading in his home, he will repudiate as and representative men, it is not posvice or a weakness on Monday, in his sible for us to deny the essential truth. club or in parliament, or on the Stock of such criticism. Exchange.
But the specially noticeable point Such is the blunt conclusion of our about it in our consideration of the greatest writer on sociology, and we ethical question is that all this languageshould find it hard to confute his testi seems to be used in good faith by men mony.
who, while thus recognizing, accepting, Another distinguished writer? has and even helping to propagate pride said that the key to all rational esti and self-interest as the dominant momate of European politics is to recog tives in public life, are all the time pronize that the dominant factor in them fessing obedience to the moral standto-day is the passion of national self ards of the Gospel, and joining in the assertion, the struggle for national customary and special worship of the primacy. For right or wrong the great Christian Church, and this, to all apnations are resolved to make them pearance, without any distinct feeling selves as big, as formidable, as exten of inconsistency. sive, as rich as science and energy can
Even an excellent Church dignitary make them, or at least to tolerate no has been known to hold that our reother nation bigger than themselves. cent experiences in South Africa fur
For this they are ready to sacrifice nish a warning lesson to remind us almost everything at home or abroad, that we should carefully avoid all their traditions, their safety, their sentiment in politics; and yet the Book credit and almost their honor.
of Common Prayer and the Gospel of And we might add to this testimony Christ are that good Churchman's daily that it is this same principle of selfish companions in his private life, and he greed which is mainly responsible for would probably have agreed with Mr. that degrading and mischievous influ Froude when he said that every genence in English life commonly de erous and living relation between man scribed as jingoism, that spurious or and man, or between men and their bastard patriotism which it should be country, is sentiment and nothing else. the aim of every ethical teacher to erad. The subject being so fundamentally icate and destroy, planting in its stead important, and the perversions and the true progressive Christian patriot contradictions of conventional public ism, whose aim is righteousness and sentiment being so instructive when goodwill.
analyzed, it may not be a work of suAgain, the most distinguished man of pererogation to cite one more witness. letters now engaged in English political Mr. Lecky, in his "Map of Life,” in life is reported to have said only the order to bring out clearly the comparaother day, when referring to the preva tively low standards of conduct which lent sentiment on our South African men are still content to follow in pubpolicy, that the language of England lic affairs, has set graphically before us hardly affects to be moral language; it two recent illustrations, which deserve is the language of pride, of mastery, of to be pondered very carefully and disforce, of violence, of revenge. And as passionately.
Referring to what may fairly be de2 Mr. F. Harrison in Cosmopolis. scribed as the meanest incident in the
The Slow Growth of Moral Influence in Politics.
modern political history of England, he - reminds us how at the close of this
nineteenth century of the Christian era, - a man holding the confidential position of Prime Minister of a colony, and being at the same time a Privy Councillor of the Queen, could engage in a conspiracy for the overthrow of a neighboring and friendly state; and, moreover, how, to carry out this design, he deceived the High Commissioner, whose Prime Minister he was, and his colleagues in the ministry; how he collected for the conspiracy an armed force under false pretences, and took part in smuggling arms to be used for purposes of rebellion, made use of newspapers under his influence or control, and spent large sums of money in fomenting rebellion, and finally was implicated in the concoction of a letter pretending to be an appeal on behalf of women and children whose lives were in danger, a letter to be dated and issued at the right moment.
Here we see course of conduct which in private life would have been honestly and sincerely reprobated by the very man who did all these things, as by the general sense of the community; but inasmuch as it belongs to the field of politics, what happens?
Let us glance at the other illustration furnished by Mr. Lecky. Very few massacres in history, he says, have been more gigantic or more clearly traced to the action of a Government than those perpetrated by Turkish soldiers in our generation; and few signs of the low level of public feeling in Christendom are more impressive than the general indifference with which these massacres were contemplated in most countries, or the spectacle of the sovereign of one of the greatest and most civilized Christian nations hastening to Constantinople, so soon after those savage Armenian atrocities, to clasp the hand which was thus deeply imbued with Christian blood, and then proceeding to the Mount of Olives, where, amid scenes consecrated by the most sacred of all memories, he proclaimed himself the champion and the patron of the Christian faith.
The verdict of fashionable society condones it, and a great part of the nation follows suit, and even a leading minister of the Crown is found to declare in the House of Commons, apparently with the assent of his colleagues, and in all sincerity, that in all these transactions, although the man had made a gigantic mistake, he had done nothing affecting his personal honor.
In the face of such phenomena one is tempted to ask whether men's conceptions of personal honor are not in some danger of deteriorating, and whether, after all, we had not better hold on to Shakespeare as a safer guide and interpreter when he writes:
Illustrations like these are surely a sufficient proof, if proof were needed, to show how slow men are to give an undivided allegiance to moral principles in all departments of life, and, moreover, how readily the conscience becomes a conventional and purblind conscience, domesticated and living at ease amid the most glaring inconsistencies.
How, then, it is natural to ask, are we to account for the fact that the standards of individual ethics are thus applied so slowly, so fitfully, so partially and so inconsistently, in the field of political or public life?
And the question is one to which it is not altogether easy to give a simple categorical answer, because the dislocation between private and public, or in
s cf. Mozley's University Sermon on the Pharisees.
dividual and corporate standards of Thus, throughout our whole educajudgment and conduct is felt to be the tional system we find very little sysresultant of various causes.
tematic training in the morals of citiIn the first place it is relevant to no. zenship. tice that the Divine Founder of our re In other subjects it is recognized ligion and His apostles deliberately that the young must be trained and confined their teaching to personal disciplined for the work of their pracmorals.
tical life by systematic daily lessons, Living as they did under a heathen repeated and learnt again and againImperial government, which would decies repetita docent; but we act as if have crushed them without mercy had our social and political morals were exthey been suspected of any political or pected to grow without any such daily revolutionary aim, they left the politi. watering and tending; and the result is cal world severely alone, content to an attenuated or arrested moral growth sow the seeds of new principles and a such as may be constantly observed in new spirit in individual hearts.
pontical action, temper and opinion; And this attitude of the Saviour and and remembering how deep-rooted and His immediate followers towards all tenacious of life are selfish motives that concerned the corporate or politi and traditional, conventional and oldcal life of the comunity, while they world ideas, we must acknowledge that rendered to Cæsar without question or we have no right to expect a very difcriticism the things that were recog. ferent result until we take more pains nized as Cæsar's, has doubtless exer to secure it. cised a continuous influence on suc But the most fundamental reason ceeding generations, tending to deter why a late or slow growth in corporate men from bringing the higher moral morality was to be expected is, that all standards of the Gospel teaching di- real moral progress is from the individrectly and unreservedly to bear upon ual heart outwards, and consequently the conduct of public or State affairs, corporate advance has to wait upon inand so leaving a great portion of our dividual advance. public opinion and activities in these Thus the tide of moral advancement departments of life still outside the first of all uplifts the individual, and pale of Christian ethics.
then the family, and after that the triFollowing upon this, and in some de bal, the national and the international gree as a consequence of it, we may conscience. note the prevalent lack of any system National and international morality atic training of the young in the right are thus seen to lie on the outermost application of moral principles to the fringe of moral influence, and they rise details of their public life.
in consequence very slowly. We are indeed so far from adequately In this slow uprising, amid the strug. recognizing the duty of giving such gle of contending forces, we find, as training that there still survives in or we have seen in the instances already dinary society a very general prejudice quoted, compromise and lax judgments to the effect that a religious teacher prevailing in public affairs with regard should confine himself to what are to matters in which no compromise and called religious matters, and abstain no such judgments would be tolerated from all political teaching, as if politi- in private personal relationships. cal morality might safely be left to So it comes to pass that after all our grow of itself.
centuries of moral and religious teach* cf. Goldwin Smith on American Slavery.
ing, with all the treasures of ancient