Morality is that relation which human actions bear to a given rule of rectitude. Says Whately, "To lay down in their universal form the laws according to which the conduct of a free agent ought to be regulated, and to apply them to the different situations of human life, is the end of morality" (Lessons on Morals). It is the opposite of legality, as that expresses only conformity with justice, while morality is applied to the tendency in the mind or heart towards harmonious action with the law. It is the doctrine, in short, which treats of actions as right or wrong. It does not cover so vast a field as religion, but is, nevertheless, the outgrowth of it. "Morality," it has been aptly said, "is a studious conformity of our actions to the relations in which we stand to each other in civil society. Morality comprehends only a part of religion; but religion comprehends the whole of morality. Morality finds all its motives here below; religion fetches all its motives from above The highest principle in social morals is a just regard to the rights of men; the first principle in religion is the love of God." While religion, then, covers the whole life both in its present and future relations, morality confines itself virtually to the temporal, or better civil life. "Morality," says Coleridge, "commences with and begins in the sacred distinction between thing and person. On this distinction all law, human and divine, is grounded" (Aids to Refection, 1265). "There are in the world," says Sewell. "two classes of objects, persons and things; and these are mutually related to each other. There are relations between persons and persons, and between things and things; and the peculiar distinctions of moral actions, moral characters, moral principles, moral habits, as contrasted with the intellect and other parts of man's nature, lies in this, that they always imply a relation between two persons, not between two things" (Christian Morals, page 339). Now the Christian Church holds that so much of the glory of man's origin remains in him, that even when farthest from the light and grace of Christ's presence in the Church he retains some spark of that divine conscience which is derived from him — "the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world" (Joh 1:9). "Morality," argues Culverwell aptly, "is founded in the divine nature. It is an eternal ordinance made in the depth of God's infinite wisdom and counsel for regulating and governing the whole world, which yet had not its binding virtue in respect of God himself, who has always the full and unrestrained liberty of his own essence that it cannot bind itself" (Light of Nature). Hence a knowledge of good and evil, some sense of responsibility to God, and some capacity for practical virtue, may be possessed even by persons not Christians; those of them at least who have not been brought within reach of the Church, with its revelation of truth and its sacraments of grace. Of such St. Paul speaks in Ro 2:14; or at least his words respecting the Gentiles who had not the Jewish "law" may be fairly interpreted as extending also to those who have not the Christian law. They may do by nature some of those duties which are extended and heightened by grace, and may thus be "not far from the kingdom of God." To what extent such natural morality now exists (after eighteen centuries of Christianity) it is impossible to say; probably to a very small extent. In his epistle to the Romans, St. Paul clearly distinguishes between that conformity with the letter of the law springing from a Christian heart, and that external conformity prompted simply by a desire to evade the odium or punishment of the transgressor. The latter the apostle does not recognise as true morality; the δικαιοσύνηνομικη is in its simple legality, and for want of a real inwardness of a moral or better spiritual life, only an apparent morality. The ἔργα νόμου are not by any means the ἔργα ἀγαθά which the spirit of Christianity elicits; they want that life-giving spirit which is none other than the spirit of divine love, of the fullest, inmost, and truly unconditional surrender to God and his most holy purposes. The germ, the life or essence, of Christian morality is love, itself the principle of union in and with God, the fountain and original of all good. It is to Christian morality, then, that the highest standard and the noblest place must be assigned; indeed, it is Christian morality which must not only precede, but supersede, all other systems of morality. "What the duties of morality are," says Coleridge, "the apostle instructs the believer in full, comprising them under the two heads of negative and positive: negative, to keep himself pure from the world; and positive, beneficence from loving-kindness — that is, love of his fellow-men (his kind) as himself. Last and highest come the spiritual, comprising all the truths, acts, and duties that have an especial reference to the timeless, the permanent, the eternal. to the sincere love of the true as truth, of the good as good, and of God as both in one. It comprehends the whole ascent from uprightness (morality, virtue, inward rectitude) to godlikeness, with all the acts, exercises, and disciplines of mind, will, and affections that are requisite or conducive to the great design of our redemption from the form of the evil one, and of our second creation or birth in the divine image. It may be an additional aid to reflection to distinguish the three kinds severally, according to the faculty to which each corresponds, the part of our human nature which is more particularly its organ. Thus, the prudential corresponds to the sense and the understanding; the moral to the heart and the conscience; the spiritual to the will and the reason, that is, to the finite will reduced to harmony with and in subordination to the reason, as a ray from that true light which is both reason and will, universal reason and will absolute" (A ids to Reflection, 1:265, also 22, 23). On the near coincidence of this scriptural division with the Platonic, SEE PRUDENCE. See Bishop Horsley's Charge (1790); Paley's and Grove's A Moral Philosophy; Beattie's Elements of Moral Science; Evans's Sermons on Christian Temper; Watts's Sermons on Christian Morals; Mason's Christian Morals; More's Hints, 2:245; Gisborne's Sermons designed to illustrate and enforce Christian Morality; Meysenburg, De Christiance religionis vi et effectu in jus civile (Gott. 1828, 8vo), Hoffbauerr, Das allgem. oder Naturrecht u. die Moral (Halle, 1816); Schleiermacher, Grundlinien einer Kritik der bisherigen Sittenlehre (Berl. 1813), page 465; Brend, Difference between the Morality of Jesus and that of the Jews; Ensor, Principles of Morality; Hildreth, Theory of Morals; Kames, Principles of Morality; Whewell, Morality, § 76; Maurice, Lectures on Social Morality (1873); Smith, Characteristics of Christian Morality (Bampton Lects. 1873);

Contemip. Rev. April 1872, art. 6 and 8; March 1872, art. 5; Westminster Rev. April 1871, pages 243, 260, 261; and literature in Malcom, Theol. Index, s.v.

Bible concordance for MORALITY.

Definition of mortality

See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

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