MR. MAURICE ON 'MORAL THEOLOGY:*
MR. MAURICE cannot touch the subject of the relation between divine and human goodness without awakening a new and living
interest in human morals. He feels so freshly and keenly that every influence which constrains and subdues the conscience is one which brings, with its constraining power, direct and immediate evidence of a higher life in which it is far more fully acknowledged, or in other words, that it is one which catches us in its descent from a world where it is stronger and fuller than we find it,—just as the sun- beam which strikes the retina has evidence in itself of an origin in light far more intense than the retina can bear,—that the Ten Com- mandments take in his brief and beautiful sermons, and still more, perhaps, in the prayers which conclude them, something of their true spiritual force and meaning. Mr. Maurice never once loses sight of the thought that all the divine commands to man rest upon something far more essential to the nature of God himself than even to the nature of man, and are intended therefore to aid in the work of taking up the human nature into the divine. We will try and illustrate this, as far as we can, from some of his im- pressive sermons. Thus, the first commandment, "I am the Lord Thy God, which have brought thee out of the land Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before Me," addresses the people of Israel, —and all other peoples,—as coming from a God whose inmost life is liberty, and Ilia will for man the breaking of all human bondage, and whose whole commandments therefore impose what seem to be restraints on human nature, but restraints the very end or purpose of which is freedom. This, like all the other commandments, finds its full significance and inter- pretation, as Mr. Maurice repeatedly reminds us, in that faller reve- lation of God through Christ where we learn what true freedom, the law of liberty,' as St. Paul calls it, really is. Again, the second commandment, against idolatry, rests on the divine will to make us in His own image, which involves the prohibition against our making Him in the image of any fancy of ours.
This, again, has its fullest explanation in Christ, in whom God gave the wcrld, as soon as it was educated for it, the image of Himself for which they had so long been yearning, and taught them that Ile was as anxious to give them some visible expression of Himself that should more than exhaust their highest powers to comprehend, as they to have such a symbol ; but that, when it came, it was, as they might have been sure beforehand, infinitely different from,—more humiliating as well as more majestic than,—the various types of natural life and power, which they had been willing to set up for themselves as objects of propitiation. Mr. Maurice tells us incidentally and very finely that though we bow
down no longer to any visible image of God, we do worse,—bow down in our hearts to much which we know to be no image of God, with all the homage which we ought to reserve for what does share His nature, for example, to the money which Ile entrusted Us • The Commandments Considered as Instruments of National Reformation. By F. D. Matinee, Professor of Morel Philosophy In the University of Cambridge London: bfacuoill.w. "to use for His glory and for the good of the land and for the help of those that dwell upon it," and that "from generation to genera- tion, this idolatry increases onus and debases us more." In short, Mr. Maurice takes the second commandment, the commandment against idols, as the reflex of the divine desire communicated to man to have some adequate object for its love, which in- volves the sinfulness on our part of prostrating the soul before that which is not worthy of veneration and love, when we are capable of worship for what is. Again, the third com- mandment, against taking the name of God in vain, "for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that talceth His Name in vain," Mr. Maurice takes as in some respect the supplement of the second commandment against putting an image or symbol of power of our own making, between ourselves and God. The third command- ment is against the sin of doing unconsciously, and through negli- gence and carelessness of God, what the second prohibits us from doing consciously from the impulse of our own imagination. Not only must we not substitute a false image of our own for Him, but in speaking of Him we must not empty out of our thoughts what He has declared Himself to be, we must not take His name, —that " name " which Christ said that He came to declare,—in other words, His self-revealed life and character, —in vain, by ignor- ing the very essence of what He has told us of Himself, and put- ting in its place our own version, i.e., what it is convenient for us to suppose that He means. This duty of ours not to drop out of God's revelation the divinest part of what He has taught, and put our poor formula in its place, is illustrated by Mr. Maurice with reference to the sacerdotal lessons which teach us to think of God as our enemy, and to fear "falling into His hands," instead of to welcome it as the highest blessing. This Mr. Maurice calls truly 'taking His name in vain,' teaching men to fear His righteousness, love, discipline, and chastisements, instead of to desire them as unit- ing us with Him. It is making His name vain,' because it empties out of it the highest part of it, His holiness, and leaves only the shadow of inflicted pain, which would have nothing divine in itself but for its intimate union with that holiness. This com- mandment, like the second, rests upon God's desire for a complete self-revelation to man, and guards against the means which we take to defeat it. The fourth commandment, the sabbatical commandment, Mr. Maurice interprets as commanding that man should keep before him the duty of participating in, as well the divine rest as the divine energy. God's rest is expressed by saying that after creation He looked upon the life He had created and found it very good. Man's rest should be of the same kind, a time of contemplation and delight in the beauty and goodness of what God has done for us. Mr. Maurice refers to the other reason given for the Sabbath, "Remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and stretched-out arm ; therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the Sabbath day,"—and regards the Sabbath there- fore as a day for claiming the highest spiritual liberty, as well as rest and contemplation. He thinks the seventh day was changed, after the Resurrection, for the first day of the week, because human liberty and human rest would necessarily and involuntarily be associated with the Gospel of the resurrection, and could not be associated with the day of death. As the first day of the week was for the disciples the day of joy in the conquest achieved by Christ over the power of death, so it necessarily became the day on which the divine rest offered to man, and the divine liberty he had gained in Christ, were celebrated. The day was altered almost without a thought, because this association was so natural,—so inevitable. About the time of Easter there was a great controversy in the Church, but the Church could not help taking the first day of the week instead of the seventh for the day of rest, because the last day of the week was now the day specially asso- ciated with death, the first that with life and victory. "Against all restrictions," — thus Mr. Maurice concludes this beautiful sermon,—" against all restrictions which shall lead men to think that God intended the Sabbath as not a blessing but a torment to His creatures, we invoke the judgment of the Son of God, who, we believe, condemns us, as He condemned the scribes of Jerusalem, for all outrages upon His law ; who, we believe, will prove that His resurrection was no fable, and will bring rest and restoration to the earth which He has redeemed."
The fifth commandment, "Honour thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee," is the commandment the fullest meaning of which was reserved for the fullest manifestation of the relation between the divine Father and the divine Son. Like the others, it rests on something in the life of God himself of which we have in our human relations a certain imperfect image. It reveals, according to Mr. Maurice, the true principle of national stability. No people can keep a land long in which the domestic relations between parents and children are not pure ; it is from the fathers that the children derive their reverence for what is old ; if the family tie is not strong, there is no cohesion, no life in the nation. As Christ makes His chief complaint against the Pharisees that they cheated their fathers and mothers by their false traditions of what was divine law, calling gifts " Corban " (or dedicate to the altar), which they wished to withhold from their parents, and as our Lord prophesied that in consequence their "house should be left unto them desolate," so every nation is near its end in which the domestic relations are becoming rotten, and this, adds Mr. Maurice, has been especially the sin of nations overridden by priesthoods :—
" And has there been a country or a period in the history of the Church wherein doctors, casuists, priests, and preachers have not re- peated the offence of the Corban—have not in Christ's name taught their disciples that the duty of giving money to some ecclesiastical treasury was greater than the duty of honouring fathers and mothers? This they have called loving Christ more than the father and the mother,—Christ, from whose lips those withering words in exaltation of the Fifth Commandment, in deprecation of the gifts, proceeded! And how remarkably have these rebellions against the law by ecclesiastics borne witness to that connection between the national and the domestic obligation which it enforces! In despising one, the sacerdotal temper has been forced to despise both. What is there sacred in the land? You are to seek the kingdom of Heaven, a world beyond the grave. These home relations, this country which you talk so mach of—do you not know that they are all to be taken from you? There is nothing lasting in them.' No, I answer. The land will not last if you are the masters of it. Then it will soon perish away from us. But it has something that is lasting, something that is the witness of the Everlasting God, of Him who was, and is, and is to come, if it contains the tombs of the fathers and mothers who dwelt on the land before us. If we honour them, if we worship their God as our God, if we teach our children that He was their God and will be the God for all generations,—then the whole earth, and especially that portion of it which the Lord God has given us to keep, will be most dear in our eyes, as we believe it is in His eyes; then any attempt to disparage or degrade it will appear to us a flagrant sin and blasphemy against Him ; then all efforts to purify and cultivate it and make it a fit habitation for the ages to come, will be deemed a service acceptable to Him."
How Mr. Maurice explains Thou shalt not kill' as the divine judgment against the passions which lead to murder, and a fresh revelation of the divine love for giving, not destroying, life ;—how he rests the command against adultery on that principle of faith- fulness to the spiritual and eternal God which the Jewish prophets always considered,—mystically if you will, as regards our power to understand it,—but still truly in fact, as the history of every nation shows, as at the root of domestic purity, treating the "neighing after the neighbour's wife " as the sensual equivalent of the unfaithfulness to Jehovah ; how he rests "Thou shalt not steal," on the respect for divine trusts committed by God at His will to those whom He desires to administer them as trusts, and shows this law to be equally inconsistent with the worship of property and the licentious disregard of it ; how he explains the law against false witness as a law vindicating that divine tes- timony to the good that is in man, which the love of mischievous gossip and slander so often tempts us to defy ; and the law against covetousness as the negative command which corresponds to that olivine principle of Christ's, "It is better to give than to receive,"—all this we must leave our readers to find out for them- selves,—only remarking that nothing could have happened to justify more completely Cambridge's choice of this noble thinker as its professor of moral philosophy and moral theology 'than the issue of this little volume, prepared and completed, as it was, before the vacancy was even known.