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Mephistopheles: “The spirit I that evermore divides.”—Goethe's “Faust.”
The affirmation of self and of God two duties—Mediæval Catholicism
affirmed God but neglected the affirmation of self-Protestantism the affirmation of self-Division and opposition the source of all misery and error-Distinction not division-Christian ethics consist in the affirmation of distinctions without division and opposition—The distinction of God and His relations by meditation, prayer, and worship-Luther denied these modes of affirming God–The affirmation of ourselves depends on our affirmation of God-Immorality the division between higher and lower natures-Duty to our neighbours consists in recognition of their rights and non-interference with their liberties—The negation of moral duty by Luther-He was disposed to sanction adultery—The evil of opposing religion to morality-Calvin denied free-will and therefore denied duty-- The reformers denied the holiness of God— The system of negation and division carried on-Deification of negation-Opposition of the Church to God-Comte-Neo-Hegelian opposition of man to man—and negation of the Absolute–Subjective Christ opposed to historical Christ--and negation of the reality of the personal Christ—The Protestant spirit one of universal negation and opposition-it has opposed all truths, religions, and philosophies, scientific and ästhetical.
(REATION is the manifestation of Love, the Incarnation
is the perfection of that manifestation, the link between God and man is therefore love.
Man's function being to affirm himself and to affirm God, love and reason have in him their proper offices. By reason
he asserts his own individuality, by love he declares God and maintains his connexion with Him, and through Him with all other men.
The exaggeration of love is the confusion of relations, the negation of diversity.
The exaggeration of reason is the opposition of relations, the negation of unity.
The rock on which Roman Catholicism has struck has been the exaggeration of love. Protestantism has gone to pieces on the negation of unity.
In its concentration of attention on God, in its passionate devotion to Him, in its reiteration of His existence, as all in all, attesting Him in humanity as the basis of charity,in science as the basis of truth, in art as the Ideal of perfect beauty, in morals as the source of virtue, Romanism has exhibited a tendency to forget individual man. It has bidden each man dissolve his personality in God, and disappear as an entity, that God may be all in all. “I am all and you are nothing," Christ is supposed to have said to S. Catharine of Sienna in one of her revelations. That was the practical maxim of the Mediaval Church,-the negation of self before God; and this has been the cause of the self-devotion and selfsacrifice of so many millions of ecstatics and ascetics.
In its concentration of attention on self, in its declaration of the infallibility of private judgment, Protestantism has ended in atheism. It has broken the link connecting man with man, and the fracture of that link has been the negation of the Absolute and the deification by each man of his own opinion.
If Catholicism be the principle of inclusion, Protestantism is the principle of exclusion. The first is the system of conciliation of all verities, the second is the opposition of all verities to their mutual exclusion.
Division, separation and antagonism has been the cause of all the misery and error the world has known and felt. “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand," said our Lord. This divine sentence is written in letters of blood on every page of history. Those extinct nations who have left their mighty ruins to encumber the soil at Babylon, Nineveh, Persepolis, Memphis and Rome, died through the division of men against men. If we enter into the chamber of our souls, we find them a prey to troubles, struggles, inconstant desires gnawing at our peace, and we find that we are in division within ourselves. From that internal division, discord has broken out in society, in science and in art, in all orders of human activity. Thence is it that empires, thrones, peoples and individuals are broken and disappear.
Division is the precursor of death. It begins in man's body with a rupture of the unity of operation, its manifestation is sickness, its triumph is mortality. It begins in man's soul with an opposition of his passions and his principles, his love and his reason, it produces moral disorganization and ends in vice. It begins in a nation with the conflict of liberty against authority, it causes revolution, and it ends in political death, the death caused by a despotism of authority or a despotism of licence.
Let the difference between division and distinction be clearly apprehended; for therein the secret lies. Distinction is a duty, division is a crime. I cannot realize my liberty without distinguishing myself from God and from my fellow-men; but if I oppose myself to God and to my fellows, I introduce division. Now, the defect of the Roman Catholic system has been the neglect of distinction, of drawing out man's personality. And the defect of the Protestant system is the conversion of distinction into division. The former has produced an artificial unity, the latter has precipitated mankind into universal contradiction.
1 Matt. xii. 25.
The whole theory of Christian ethics is an application of the law of love as the link, and of reason as the differentiator. There are duties owed to God, to one's self, and to other men. The duty owed to God is the recognition of Him.
We recognize God by an act of the will, and by an act of faith.
We recognize Him by meditation, prayer, and worship. By meditation, prayer, and worship we emphasize the personality of God, and place ourselves face to face with Him, we declare that He is, just as when we place ourselves opposite the sun we conceive the idea and assert that the sun is.
Meditation is an abstraction of attention from one's self, to fix it entirely on God, it is the will insisting on His reality. Prayer is the assertion of the two personalities, the personality of God and that of the suppliant. It is the affirmation of the existence of a link uniting the two individualities.
Worship is the subjection of the personality of the worshipper to the object worshipped; it is therefore the affirmation of the relations the two personalities bear to one another.
Consequently Meditation, Prayer, and Worship are three duties owed to God by every Christian; he cannot pretermit one without negativing or ignoring the reality, the link, or the relation. The first is an act of faith, the second an act of hope, and worship is an act of love. By meditation he expresses his belief in God, he brings out his vague convictions and gives them shape and consistency, by prayer he gives voice to his trust in God, and by worship
pours forth into the lap of God all the treasures of his affection.
Atheism is the negation of God or of the duty owed to God, it is either speculative or practical; speculative if it denies the existence of God, practical if it denies the relations. Speculative Atheism is the boldest and most consistent form of negation, but practical Atheism is the commonest, because many who shrink from denying God directly, are ready to deny Him obliquely.
If meditation be the affirmation of the existence of God and meditation need not be lengthy,one rapid flash of thought is sufficient—to neglect it is practically to deny God.
If prayer be the affirmation of the link between God and man, to neglect prayer is to disallow the link; and the link severed, the two personalities are opposed and become actively hostile, so that the idea of God is destroyed or at least is passively ignored.
If worship be the affirmation of the superiority of God to man, of the relation in which man stands to God and God to man, the former being the relation of freewill, the latter the relation of grace—with the abolition of worship the relations disappear, and the relations disappearing the distinction disappears and man resolves himself into the Absolute, so that we have every man proclaiming himself to be God, or at least passively regarding himself as infallible.
These duties to God Luther emphatically denied. He said, "When the monks sitting in their cells meditated on God and His works, when inflamed with the most ardent devotion they bowed the knee, prayed, and contemplated heavenly things with so much delight that for much joy they shed tears ;-Here was no thought of women nor of any other creature, but only of the Creator and His marvellous works. And yet this thing, most spiritual in the