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The Reformers themselves treat the moral contents of the Christian consciousness for the most part only practically; Melanchthon. develops in his Loci merely the ground-thoughts, though he also attempts, on the basis of Aristotle, a philosophical establishing of the foundations of ethics; Calvin gives only brief outlines, independently of the earlier scholastic method. The antithesis of the two evangelical churches manifested itself also in wide-reaching differences of ethical views. As an independent theological science, ethics was somewhat earlier treated in the Reformed than in the Lutheran church. In the latter, it was at first either combined, in its mere ground-principles, with dogmatics, or treated merely practically and popularly; G. Calixtus, however, treated it as a science distinctly separate from dogmatics, though only in its scanty beginnings. From this time forward it was frequently treated independently, though for the most part, even as late as into the eighteenth century, only as casuistry; and Pietism, which embraced so earnestly the ethical contents of Christianity, although with some formal narrowness, prepared the way for a profounder scientific treatment of ethics.
Luther himself, who embraced the evangelical ground-truths so clearly and distinctly, was not called by the general scope of his activity to the preparing of a system of scientific ethics proper. His warfare against Romish work-holiness, and against the formal, subtle and freedom-hampering casuistry of the Romanists, must have awakened in him a certain disinclination to a rigidly-scientific development of ethics, and an anxiety lest such a work might sink the free moral activity of the Christian 236from the sphere of faith-communion with Christ into unfree and juridical forms. He expressed it repeatedly, that the true believer needs no law at all, because faith itself is both law and power, and spontaneously works the God-pleasing out of free love without being hampered by an objective law. As the apple-tree bears its fruit not in virtue of a law given to it, but out of its own proper nature, so are all Christians so tempered by faith that they spontaneously do well and righteously better than all laws could teach them to do. Even as the tree must exist antecedently to its fruit, and as the fruit does not make a tree good or bad, but the tree makes the fruit, so must man be good or bad before he does good or bad works. The Christian’s love is to be an outward-gushing love, flowing from within out of the heart, out of his own little fountain; the spring and the stream are themselves to be good,—are not to derive their waters from without. Christ was a Redeemer, not a Lawgiver, and the Gospel is not to be turned into a book of laws. With such views, so directly antagonistic to the common Romish teaching, if we except the Mystics, it was natural that a rigidly-drawn-up system of ethics might seem a hampering to faith-born freedom,— might seem like an adulterating of the teachings of the Gospel with the doctrine of the law. This period of agitated contest was therefore little adapted to the scientific development of a system of ethics; this science was in fact the fruit of the evangelical life as having come to inner peace and stability, and as grown ripe through long experience in faith.
Of the chief Reformers, only Melanchthon,—who was of solid classic culture, and who gave proof, at the time of his scientific maturity, both of decided fondness for, and of a thorough understanding of, Aristotle,—indicated, in his theological writings not only the ground-thoughts of evangelical ethics, but gave even the outlines of a system of philosophical ethics. Besides his valuable comments on the Ethics and Politics of Aristotle,143143 In Ethica Arist. comment., 1529, treating only the 1st and 2d books; in 1532 were added the 3d and 5th; re-written in 1545 as Enarratio aliquot librorum Eth. Ar., etc.,—in the Corpus Reformatorum of Bretschneider and Bindseil, t. xvi, p. 277-416.—Comment. in aliquot politicos libros Aristot., 1530, in Corp. Ref., ib., p. 417 sqq. he wrote, on the basis of Aristotelian principles, Philosophiae 237moralis epitome, 1538.144144 Corp. Ref., xvi, pp. 21-164. The following editions, 1539, ’40, are largely changed; three later ones, 1542-’46, are like that of 1540. In this work Melanchthon keeps philosophical ethics and the Christian knowledge of the moral strictly separate. The former is capable of comprehending and presenting only a part of the divine law; it gives only the natural law; but this is also a true divine law, which is implanted in human reason; and the philosophical knowledge of the same is a legitimate requirement and is an education toward the higher truth, as also the true foundation of all civil legislation, and is consequently by no means to be despised; moral reason is the mirror from which the wisdom of God is reflected forth [Corp. Ref., pp. 21-27; comp. 277]. The method of the work follows the plan of the ethics of Aristotle, but presents far more solid principles. Man is the image of God, and his goal is the true development and manifestation of this image. Hence the end of man is to know and to recognize God, his prototype, arid to manifest, in and through himself, the glory of God, by willing and complete obedience [28 sqq]. Of the virtues that fall within the scope of philosophical ethics, righteousness or justness takes first rank, and this virtue is pretty fully discussed [63 sqq.], especially in its civic significancy; more briefly are treated the virtues of truthfulness, beneficence, thankfulness, and friendship.—His philosophical ethics appeared, in 1550, entirely re-written and more independent of Aristotle, as Ethicae doctrinae elementa et enarratio libri quinti Ethicorum, and afterward in 1554, ’57, ’60, and frequently after Melanchthon’s death.145145 Corp. Ref., xvi, pp. 165-276; not printed in the earlier Opp. This excellent work, though not comprehensive,—shorter even than the previous work, and presenting only the general bases of the moral, and examining more fully only certain special and, in part, civic questions,—is written in a clear, concise, and beautiful style, and is a worthy commencement toward a system of evangelical and, in fact, essentially philosophical ethics,—since the seventeenth century undeservedly laid aside, and also-in more recent times almost forgotten.—A knowledge of the virtues is necessary, because it shows that God is; for the eternal and immutable distinction of the moral and the immoral in our reason cannot be fortuitous, hut must proceed from the eternal, prescribing reason itself; it shows also how God is, namely, 238wise, free, truthful, just, beneficent, merciful, etc.; it is a witness of God’s justly retributing judgments, and is a life-norm for men in outward (not spiritual) actions and in discipline. Natural reason, however, can discover neither the ground of the enfeeblement which has resulted from sin, nor the means of salvation therefrom; hence philosophy, without the Gospel, does not suffice [Corp. Ref., 165-167]. Moral philosophy is the scientific presentation of the moral law of nature in the sphere of external morals and discipline, and is, in this field, in harmony with the Decalogue, and in so far also with the Gospel; for the moral law is the eternal and immutable wisdom and measure of the justice of God, obligating all rational creatures, and condemning those who come into conflict with it; but the Gospel preaches repentance, and promises forgiveness of sins on the ground of redemption by grace. Now, though moral philosophy knows nothing of this promise, yet, as being a part of the law, it also, on its part, leads toward the Gospel, and is therefore not to be despised [C. R., 167-170].—Ethics inquires first of all after the goal of the moral course. This goal or end is God himself, who lovingly communicates himself to us, and hence the true knowledge and reverencing of God. God created man unto his image, hence He wills that He should himself be manifested in and through man, namely, in that man becomes morally like unto Him; only in a derived sense can it be said that virtue is the end of man, as the highest good. The good is that which harmonizes with the God-set goal; hence evil is a disturbing of the divine plan; and evil is primarily a malum culpae, in pure antagonism to the divine will, and then, secondarily, a malum poenae, which by the divine, righteous will is made to follow upon the guilty malum culpae; God is in no sense whatever the author or accomplice of sin,—to affirm this would be blasphemy,—though He is indeed the author of the punishment [C. R., 170-183].—Virtue, as an acquired tendency to obey right reason, is conditioned on the fact that, on the ohe hand, reason guides the will by a right judgment, and that on the other the will freely, persistently and firmly lays hold upon this judgment, and has pleasure in so doing. A knowledge of the law and a free-will are the characteristics of the divine image as created in man by divine love; virtue is the moral realization of this image,—is thankful, answering love for received 239love. In reason, as darkened by sin, this knowledge and freedom are indeed enfeebled, but not annihilated, and there remained in man a moral consciousness of right and wrong, and some degree of freedom to act conformably to this consciousness. Hence, the will is then truly good when it corresponds to the moral consciousness in so far as this consciousness harmonizes with the divine will. Hence virtue—more definitely stated—is the tendency of the will constantly to hearken to the moral consciousness for God’s sake and out of thankfulness toward him [183 sqq]. The thought of the moral freedom of the will is, now, thoroughly, carefully, and very emphatically developed by Melanchthon, and an attempt made to establish it by Scripture (in harmony with Loci, iv, edition of 1559). Man as man, and hence even unredeemed man, has in the moral sphere a free discretion to prefer morality to crime, to perform outward moral works and to preserve discipline, and it is God’s will that such discipline and order be freely preserved—not merely from fear, but also for conscience’ sake. Indeed, genuine God-fearing, right trust and right love to God, steadfastness in confession, and hence, in fact, all the truly God-pleasing spiritual virtues, are impossible without the assistance of the Holy Spirit; in this assistance, however, man is not purely inactive like a statue, but reason must attentively lay hold on the Word of God, and the will must not resist, but must yield to the gracious workings of the Holy Spirit, and aspire after divine support. Absolute predestination and Stoic fatality are equally to be rejected. The passions—by which Melanchthon understands both the impulses of feeling and the desires—are not to be suppressed as irrational, as the Stoics teach, but are to be taken into the service of the moral reason, and those that have become evil by sin are to be resisted [201-207].—The distribution of the virtues is best made according to the Decalogue. But the commands of the first table cannot be adequately known in a purely philosophical manner; nevertheless, some points may be made. Every effect is dependent on its cause, and must remain in harmony therewith; man is an effect of God, consequently he ought to remain in harmony with God, and not break off the bond that unites him with God. Moreover, as the image of God, man has the duty of remaining in likeness and harmony with God [214, 215]. In the commandments of the second 240table appears, first, the virtue of justness, and in fact primarily in a general character, in the relation of those who guide and those who are guided, in which relation obedience to parents and to the magistracy, and piety in general, appear as a moral law of nature. Justness in its special form—that which gives to every one his dues—appears in the three following commandments, which require the preserving of every one in his rights, in respect to life, to wedlock-fidelity and to property. The second chief virtue, as expressed in the eighth commandment, is truthfulness, which is a necessary requirement of the rational nature of man; for in fact reason consists essentially in a knowledge of the truth, and consequently it also requires the truth. The two last commandments enjoin temperateness, but they are not developed in detail. To these three chief virtues the others are joined as branches, namely, steadfastness to truthfulness, and thankfulness, beneficence, diligence, etc., to justness, especially justness toward God [215-222].—In his second book, Melanchthon gives a development of the virtue of justness in detail, with the omission of the other virtues. Justness, or righteousness in the evangelical sense—the virtue which acquires for man eternal salvation—cannot be attained to by mere human effort because of the prevalence of sin, but is imparted to man by grace in virtue of redemption; in moral philosophy the question is therefore only as to the justness which consists in the outward fulfilling of positive laws. This justness is, in part, of a general character, consisting in obedience to law both human and divine [as in Rom. ii, 13; Psa. cxix, 121], and in part of a special character; the latter is, in its turn, of a distributive and of an exchanging character; as distributive it relates to social order, as well to social superordination and subordination as to the calling of the proper persons to particular offices, and to rewarding and punishing, and hence, in general, to the upholding of proper discipline,—as exchanging it relates to the moral intercourse and commerce of men among each other as equals. The practice of justness, and hence also obedience toward those holding office and authority, takes place not merely in virtue of human laws, but also in the fulfilling of the divine will; the proper human ordinances of society are God’s ordinances. A violation of the law of nature, and hence also disobedience toward the legitimate 241ordinances of civil authority, is consequently not merely a civil misdemeanor, but also a sin against God, a mortal sin. The ordinances of the natural law are in part unconditional, and hence divine and perpetually-valid commands, such as obedience toward God, parental duties, the virtue of truthfulness; and, in part, only conditionally-valid, such as the keeping of peace and the communistic use of property; the latter feature, in fact, would be obligatory only on condition that mankind were not corrupted by sin; in consequence of sin, however, the forcible protection and distinct separation of property become necessary [222-234]. The guilt of transgressions of the law is different according as the person does or does not act with a clear consciousness of the law and of the deed; guiltily-incurred error excuses not the deed, but rather heightens the guilt, inasmuch as it is our duty to seek after the truth. Also violent passions do not make the unlawful action an involuntary one, for man -may and ought to control his passions [237-240].—Hereupon, and apropos to the assumption of power on the part of the Pope over secular governments, Melanchthon treats of the nature of, and the difference between, the spiritual and the temporal powers, in essential agreement with what he had said in his Loci [20, 21]; this is followed by disquisitions on questions of civil right, on taxes and contracts.
In his Loci Melanchthon gives the general bases of the moral consciousness in strictly Biblical form [Loci 3-6; 8-11]. The Old Testament law is not identical with the eternal moral law, but contains besides this law (which is indeed not fully included in the Decalogue, but only indicated in its chief features) also the ceremonial and the civil law, both of which had validity only until the advent of Christianity. The moral law is the immediate and pure expression of the divine wisdom and justness themselves, and hence was not first given by Moses, but was always valid from the very beginning. Melanchthon’s somewhat extensive examination of the several divine laws in the order of the Decalogue, may serve in many respects to complement his philosophical ethics. He writes, here, free from the cramping fetters of the long-observed schemata, and reckons among the “works” of the first commandment: a proper knowledge of God, God-fearing, faith, love, hope, patience, and humility. 242The Romish doctrine of the counsels he refutes and rejects. The distinction between mortal and venial sins he indeed retains, but he conceives it much more deeply,—understanding under the latter such sins as are committed by Christians without evil intention and with inner resistance to the evil, and are followed by honest repentance, and under the latter those which are committed premeditatedly and against conscience [Loc., 11]. In addition to this, Melanchthon examines in special treaties and letters many particular, and especially practico-moral, questions,146146 De conjugio; quaestiones aliquot ethicae, de juramentis, etc., 1552; in Corp. Ref., xvi, 453 sqq. Consilia s. judicia theol., ed. Pezellii. 1660. in a very judicious manner.
In his scientific conception of the ethical task, Melanchthon furnishes an essential complement to that of Luther, who fixed his attention simply on the fact of the moral life of the regenerated as such, without shaping the development of this fact out of the inner heart of the Christian life, into an ethical science. Melanchthon himself, however, did not complete this task, but simply began it; and although we find in him frequently a slight over-estimation of Aristotle, still we perceive in the vigorous manner in which, in his last ethical writings, he breaks loose from all cramping and foreign forms and thoughts, and lays an entirely new, purely Christian foundation, how clearly he comprehended his task,—the carrying-out of which was delayed by the soon-following inner struggles of the evangelical church; only a few writers—Chytraeus, Victorin Strigel and Nicholas Hemming—followed, in, as yet, feeble attempts, upon the path marked out by Melanchthon.147147 J. C. E. Schwarz in Stud. u. Krit., 1853; Pelt., ib., 1848.
The rigid predestinarianism of Calvin seems at first thought still more unfavorable for the development of ethics than the stand-point of Luther; in reality, however, the Reformed church developed an independent system of ethics earlier than the Lutheran. The juridically-dialectic ground-character of the Calvinistic world-conception necessarily led sooner than the more mystically-inclined subjective Lutheran view, to a rigorous development of the practical phase of religion. In his Institutio [iii, 6-10] Calvin gives a short, plainly-biblical presentation of the bases of Christian morality,—which, of course, can be actually practiced only by the predestinated, but which is however for them, as being called to purity, an unconditional duty. That virtue cannot actually obtain for us salvation—communion with God—but is simply the necessary fruit of the salvation already obtained by grace, and the constant bond of this communion as established by grace, Calvin affirms very definitely. Therein, precisely, consists, in his view, the essential superiority of Christian to philosophical ethics, namely, that the former gives much deeper-reaching motives for the good than the latter, to wit, thankful love in return for God’s love as revealed in redemption, and confiding love to the Redeemer, in whom we have at the same time the perfect personal pattern of the moral life. Out of this love to God in Christ flows a love of justness or righteousness (in the Biblical sense of the word) as the basis of the entire religious life. But the essence of Christian righteousness consists in perfect self-denial, that is, in the renunciation of all self-will and self-reason as opposed to God,—in an unreserved surrender to God and his will; it draws us away from love to the world, but must not sink into self-mortification and false asceticism. Man must not, by arbitrary non-Scriptural ordinances, impose upon himself a yoke. The moral life manifests itself [according to Titus ii, 12] in three chief virtues: soberness, righteousness and piety; to the first (sobrietas), which relates to the subject himself, belong also chastity, temperateness and the enduring of privation; the second relates to other men, and gives to each his dues; the third separates us from the impurity of the world and unites us with God.—Calvin gives expression, on the whole, also in his other numerous moral essays, especially in his exegetical writings, to a moral view which is no less earnest than sound, and generally keeps clear of all un-Biblical austerity. To the Romish seeking of holiness by abnegation, he opposes the thought, that the goods of this world are designed not merely for our absolute wants, but also for our moral delight; their enjoyment is not forbidden, but it should be made to contribute to the glory of God. The strict church discipline established and exercised by Calvin was indeed an offense to a gainsaying world, but was morally perfectly justifiable. His unevangelical view of the right of capital punishment against heretics, belongs less to the sphere of ethics proper than to that of civil right.
In all essential points the ethical systems of the Reformed 244and of the Lutheran churches are in harmony; there is manifest throughout, however, a general characterizing difference in the coloring given to the otherwise essentially harmonizing forms; this difference we cannot here follow into its finer shades;148148 Comp. Schneckenburger: Vegleichende Darstellung des luth. u. ref. Lehrbegriffs, 1855; Tholuck: Das kirchl. Leben des 17 Jahrh., i, 199 sqq., 218 sqq., 301 sqq.; ii, 140 sqq., 239 sqq. a few of the more general traits will suffice. The ethics of the Lutheran church bears predominantly an anthropologico-subjective character, that of the Reformed a theologico-objective character; the former proceeds from the inner life-source of the regenerated heart, and constructs, therefore, only hesitatingly an ethical system proper,—as, in some degree, superfluous; the latter sets out from the unconditional will of God to man, and hence felt much earlier the need of a scientific expression of the moral law, objective to the consciousness; the former wears rather a Paulino-free stamp, the latter rather an Old Testament stamp; in the Reformed church sermons on morals have a much more prominent place than in the Lutheran. Lutheran ethics expresses, also in its christology,. the transfiguration of the human through indwelling grace, Reformed ethics, rather the glorifying of God in and through the elect. With both, the goal of morality is the glory of God,—in the Lutheran church, however, more through the witness of the salvation-experience of the redeemed, in the Reformed, more through the offering of willing obedience under the law; in the former predominates rather the manifestation of the filial relation, in the latter, rather that of submissive service; in the former there is greater freedom in the self-determination of the believing subject, even to the danger of Antinomianism, in the latter greater rigor of outward discipline, incurring danger of Puritanic rigorism and pedantic externality. The moral life of the Lutheran church bears, so to speak, a lyric character, that of the Reformed a practico-juridical one; hence the former expressed itself, naturally enough, in the sublimest soaring of church hymnology, the latter crystallized itself into a sharply-defined and regular church discipline; in the former predominates the mystical heart-element of union with God, in the latter predominates a rational contrasting of God and man. In the former all that is natural is ethically exalted and taken into the service of the 245holy; whereas, in the latter, the spiritual is exalted bly being divested of the natural. The morality of the Lutheran church develops itself rather from the fullness of inner life toward knowledge, that of the Reformed rather from knowledge toward life-fullness; the former is more immediate, natural and unconscious, the latter is more mediate, calculating, doctrinary; the former is directed more inwardly, the latter more outwardly; the former is more an outgush out of the deep and overflowing feeling of love and bliss, the latter, more an intentional act of the earnest but calm will,—as also, in the Lutheran view of salvation, the attention is fixed more upon the all-embracing love of God, and in the Reformed more upon the decrees of the will of God; Mary and Martha are types of the respective ethical tendencies. The Lutheran Christian does good works because he is certain of his salvation through faith; the Reformed does them in order that he may become certain of his saving faith, and hence of his election,—good works are to him necessary unto salvation, though not its cause. The Lutheran needs the law and its discipline, strictly speaking, only in so far as he has as yet in himself sinful elements which need to be taken into discipline; but to the Reformed, the law is a real and necessary guide for the regenerated heart itself. Hence, to the Reformed, the Gospel wears essentially also the character of law in the Old Testament sense, and the Old Testament law is taken lit6rally as yet binding,—hence the rigid observance of the Sabbath and the prohibition of statues and pictures. In the Lutheran catechism the ten commandments precede the confession of faith; in most of the Reformed churches they stand after the same, and constitute, in the French and English service, an essential part of the liturgy. This seemingly insignificant circumstance is in fact very significant; in the Lutheran view the law has essentially the purpose of educating toward the true freedom of the children of God, which freedom itself, when once attained to, has no longer any need of an outward law; in the Reformed view the law is an essential part of the Christian faith-life itself, but an objective, purely-divine element still external to the regenerated subject. The Lutheran is fearful rather of work-holiness, the Reformed rather of non-conformity to the law; the former 246has the law rather as his inward personal property, the latter rather as a categorical imperative external to his own subjective will. To the Lutheran, Moses and Christ stand in sharp contrast to each other; to the Reformed they are most intimately united; “one must live as if there were no Gospel, and die as if there were no law,” says, very significantly, the Reformed divine Baile (Praxis pietatis, 1635). To the Lutheran, Christ is, in ethical respects, rather the beloved Saviour, out of love to whom and in communion with whom he lives in holiness; to the Reformed he is more the moral pattern by which man is constantly learning, and which he endeavors to imitate. Hence Lutheran ethics appears predominantly as the doctrine of virtue and of goods, Reformed ethics as the doctrine of the law. The Lutheran Christian conceives the good essentially as the morally-beautiful, and hence he has also appreciation and love for the beautiful in general,—gives expression to art, and makes it even a moral agency; the Reformed conceives the good essentially as the right, and hence he has little taste or love for art as a moral power, but all the higher an appreciation for the legally-disciplined development of the church and of moral society; to the former the highest virtue is believing love; to the latter, righteousness. The moral consciousness of the Lutheran conceives the highest good rather as a power directly given by grace and reflecting from itself the moral life; the Reformed consciousness makes the moral life an essential factor in the obtaining of the highest good. Hence, in the ethical sphere, the antithesis of the Lutheran doctrine to the Romish is more violent than that of the Reformed; hence also the Reformed church, but not the Lutheran, developed a theocratical form of the church, and placed in general much greater emphasis on the legal and governmental development of the purely moral community of the church as in contrast to the state, and as a determining power for and over the same, whereas the subjective inwardliness of Lutheran Christians manifested little interest for such development. Such are the differences which, while they indeed manifest a general ethical antithesis of the two forms of doctrine, yet in fact constitute only two corresponding and manifoldly-complementing, but not mutually-excluding 247phases of the same unitary evangelical consciousness.
The theological ethics of the evangelical church was treated as a separate science,149149 On the history of the earlier Reformed ethics, see Schweizer in Stud. u. Krit., 1850. first by the learned Reformed divine Danaeus (Daneau, ob. 1596) in his Ethica christiana (1577, ’79, ’88 and 1601),—in a rigidly Calvinistic sense, with a large using of Augustine, Aristotle, and the Schoolmen, in strong opposition, however, sometimes to the two latter sources, resulting in a learned and thoughtful work, though as yet somewhat immature. He endeavors especially to solve the apparent contradiction between the doctrine of predestination and the requirements of the moral consciousness, though not with very happy results; the special treatment of duties he bases on the Decalogue; in respect to Church-discipline he requires the greatest rigor,—for heretics, capital punishment. (In connection with this ethics stands his Politica christiana, 1596-1606). The antithesis which Danaeus makes between Christian ethics and Aristotelian philosophical ethics, was rejected by Keckermann (ob. 1609 in Heidelberg), who considered ethics as essentially a philosophical science, and Aristotle as its true founder;150150 Systema ethicae in his Opp., 1614. while the severely Puritanical Amesius (in Holland, ob. 1634) emphasized again very strongly the distinction of Christian from philosophical ethics, placing Christian ethics along-side of dogmatics.151151 Medulla theologiae, 1630, and frequently, a brief compendium; De conscientiae et ej. jure vel casibus, 1630, and subsequently,—casuistical. (The distinguishing of ethics and dogmatics as the two parts of the body of Christian doctrine, appears also in the Reformed divine, Polanus of Basle.)152152 Syntagma theol., 1610. Walaeus (in Holland, ob. 1639) attempted in his compendium of the ethics of Aristotle (1620) to imbue this work with a Christian spirit. More important, despite its rather popular style, is the peculiar work of the moderate Calvinist Amyraud (Amyraldus, at Saumlur, ob. 1664).153153 La morale chrestienne, 1652 sqq., 6 t.,—rare in Germany; see Stäudlin iv, 404 sqq.; Schweizer in Stud. u. Krit., 1683. He distributes ethics historically, into the ethics of the pure unfallen state, into that of heathenism, and of 248Judaism and of Christianity; the first part contains the general philosophical considerations. The historical treatment of the subject gives a just appreciation also of heathen ethics, without intermingling Christian ethics therewith.—The ethics of the Reformed church was casuistically treated by the Puritan Perkins (of Cambridge, 1611), also by the above-mentioned Amesius, and by the German Alsted (1621, 1630), who distributed the subject-matter according to the chief heads of the Catechism. Also Forbesius à Corse treated the subject in the order of the Decalogue, in his learned though quite practically-written work on moral theology, considered as the special doctrine of duties.154154 Opp., Amst., 1703. Ethics was treated in a popular, edifying manner by La Placette, Pictet, Basnage, and by the Englishman Richard Baxter. The scientific and purely theological form of Reformed ethics was still further developed, in the eighteenth century, by Hoornbeek (1663), by Peter of Mastricht (1699), who follows Amesius, by Heidegger (1711), by Lampe (1727), and by others. In the middle of the eighteenth century the rigid form of Calvinistic ethics begins to give way, and the influence of the philosophy of Wolf commences to break down the confessional antithesis in the field of morals.
In the Lutheran church there was at first but little done beyond the already-mentioned further developments of the philosophical ethics of Melanchthon, with the exception of a single, though not purely theological, attempt of the Melanchthonian Hamburger, Von Eitzen:155155 Comp. Pelt in Stud. u. Krit., 1848. theology is so involved in dogmatical controversies as to have in general but little inclination toward a scientific development of ethics; it treated the weightier and more general questions only briefly, in dogmatics, in connection with the doctrines of free-will, of sin, of the law, and of sanctification, leaving the more detailed treatment of the subject rather for such practical writers as worked toward the Christian edification of the masses,—writers who were in some respects related to the Mystics, and among whom two deserve especial attention. The first of these, John Valentine Andreae, of Wurtemberg (ob. 1654), is a very morally-earnest spirit, thoroughly dovoted to practical Christianity, of slightly mystical tendencies, 249of thorough scientific culture, and of deep acquaintance with human nature. Strongly impressed with the Calvinistic church discipline in Geneva, Andreae devoted his unwearying efforts to the bringing about of moral discipline also in the German church, though he found a rather unreceptive age, and was much deceived in his, at times, somewhat idealistic hopes. His numerous moral writings,— often clothed in poetical and especially allegorical forms, and sometimes satirical, though always hiding, even in hilarity, a very deep and often melancholy earnestness,—are always directed to definite special objects, and hence present no connected whole. Holding fast to the faith of the church, he yet rebuked indignantly the unfruitful hair-splitting spirit of dogmatic controversy, and insisted on the one thing needful; at the same time, it is true, he occasionally too lightly esteemed man’s scientific right to a clear knowledge of the contents of faith, as well as the significancy of the doctrinal differences between the churches; and, in his desire for a moral reformation of the church, he too little considered the importance of pure doctrine, and was too indulgent toward many opposers of the same.—The second, John Arndt, (ob. 1621), was spiritually kindred to Andreae and held him in high esteem; Arndt was an evangelical Thomas à Kempis, and combined evangelical fidelity of faith with mystical subjectivity and practical zeal for morality, and exerted a deep-reaching, beneficent influence on the evangelical churches. His work entitled Four Books of True Christianity (at first in 1605-10)—with the exception of the Imitation of Christ, the most widespread of German books of devotion-bears indeed sometimes a rather strong mystical coloring (in this respect following somewhat in the path of Tauler and of the “German Theology”), and under-estimates, in many respects, the significancy of the objective means of grace, and lays chief emphasis on the mystical, direct union of the soul with God; nevertheless it constituted so essential and so salutary a complementing of the somewhat one-sidedly theorizing theological spirit of the age, and so powerfully stirred up the partially-dormant moral consciousness, that Arndt will always occupy an eminent place in the history of morality and of practical ethics, A per se unimportant and yet fruitful attempt at a purely 250theological system of ethics, unconnected with dogmatics, was made by George Calixt of Helmstädt; his Epitome theologiae moralis (p. I, 1634; 1662,) is only a short, incomplete outline, giving in fact only an introduction. The purpose of ethics is, to describe the way to blessedness, the life of the already spiritually-regenerated Christian; regeneration itself is presupposed; the foundation, even of Christian morality, is the ten commandments, which are a revealed re-establishment of the original law of nature; but the difference of Christian ethics from Old Testament ethics is not made prominent enough. In the footsteps of Calixt followed J. C. Dürr of Altdorf, who, for the first, gave a tolerably complete and learned treatise on ethics;156156 Enchiridion theol. mor., 1662; later as: Compend., 1675-98 4to. he distinguishes between virtues toward God, toward others, and toward ourselves; in regard to theatrical spectacles, to jesting, etc., he shows a less rigid severity than the ethical writers of the Reformed church; and this difference of view is manifest also among the other Lutheran moralists, if we except the Pietists. Of the same tendency was also G. T. Meier, of Helmstädt, whose erudite and profound introduction to ethics157157 Introd. in univ. theol. mor. studium, 1671. And as the beginning of a development of ethics itself: Disputt. theol., 1679. examines, for the first time, with critical discrimination the presuppositions of this science. (H. Rixner, in a briefer work in 1690.) Aristotle is used also in these theological treatises on ethics, without, however, damagingly influencing their theological character.
The ethics of the Lutheran church was treated more frequently casuistically than in a systematic form; it bore this character even as late as into the eighteenth century, and forms, properly speaking, only an amassment of material for a subsequent scientific development. As occasioned by the casuistry of the Romish church, the casuistry of the evangelical church, in express antithesis thereto, manifests, on the basis of Scripture and of spiritual experience, a greater certainty and simplicity, and preserves a middle-ground between the sophistical laxity of the Jesuitical view and the rigid severity of the Calvinistic. Many of these works contain also many dogmatic questions together with their decisions. The distribution of the subject-matter follows, for the 251most part, the order of the catechism; the answer is given on the basis of the Scriptures, and then confirmed by the decisions of the Fathers and of later writers, especially of Luther and of the other Reformers. The first work of this kind, after the already-mentioned Consilia of Melanchthon, is by Baldwin of Wittenberg,158158 Tactatus luculentus, etc., 1628, ’35, and later. and obtained great popularity; it treats chiefly of the. casus conscientiae, that is, of such moral questions as the common conscience cannot immediately and satisfactorily decide, but in regard to which it may fall into doubt, and which consequently can be decided only by a careful weighing of the word of God. He classifies these cases according to the moral objects: God, angels, the subject himself, and other men. (L. Dunte of Reval, gave a thousand and six decisions on conscience-questions of a moral and dogmatical character, in 1643.) Olearius of Leipzig, who had already previously presented ethics in tabular form, examined thoroughly, and with the most minute and discriminating exactness, the purpose and the nature of casuistry;159159 Introd. brevis in theol. casuisticam, 1694. casuistry was more fully carried out by Dannhauer,160160 Liber conscientiae, 2 ed. 1679, 2 t., and Theologia casualis, 1706. by G. König,161161 Casus consc., Altdorf, 1676, 4to. but especially circumstantially by John Adam Osiander,162162 Theol. casualis, 1680, 6 t., 4to. who introduces into the subject almost the entire body of dogmatics; he classifies the cases in the order of the Decalogue; under the sixth commandment, e. g., he proposes the question whether in a case of extreme necessity it is allowable to eat human flesh, and, in opposition to the Jesuits, negatives it (ii, p. 1367). The work of Mengering (superintendent in Halle) Scrutinium conscientiae catecheticum, that is, a “Reproving of Sin and Searching of the Conscience,” etc. (3 ed. 1686, 4to.), more especially intended for moral self-examination, is classified minutely and circumstantially according to the Decalogue, and is morally earnest and judicious, though it presents also a few peculiarities ( e. g., p. 752, as to the inadmissibility of tobacco-smoking, then called tobacco-drinking). Only in part, belongs in this place the voluminous work: Consilia theologica Witebergensia, that is, 252(“Wittenberg’s Spiritual Counsels,” etc.—(Frankfort on the Main, 1664)—which contains, in an immense folio, judgments of Luther and of his co-laborers, and decisions of the Wittenberg faculty on doctrinal points, moral and ecclesiastico-legal questions (also matrimonial questions). Of a similar character is the Opus novum quaestionum Practico-Theologicum (Frankfort, 1667, fol.), which treats, in the order of the common Loci, sixteen hundred and sixty-seven questions,—also that of Dedekenn: Thesaurus consiliorum theol. et jurid. (1623), revised by John C. Gerhard (Jena, 1671, 4 vols. fol.).
Also the theological “Bedenken” of the eighteenth century belong to the sphere of this casuistical ethics. Among these works those of Spener occupy a peculiar and significant place, and constitute, together with his other more or less ethical writings, a turning-point in the development of the evangelical moral consciousness. Their significancy rests less in their single judgments than in their peculiar ground-thoughts. Spener,—who was imbued with the spirit of Thomas à Kempis, of Andreae and of Arndt, and in part, even of Tauler, and who restlessly labored in the path trod by these men for a moral bettering of the Christian church,—called forth by the Pietism which proceeded from him, a deep-reaching, beneficent movement in the moral life and in the moral views of the evangelical church, although indeed in consequence of his one-sided emphasizing of the practical, he treated science itself somewhat too lightly, and set too high an estimate on certain outward forms of devout morality, and thus needlessly limited the legitimate liberty of a regenerated Christian. Spener’s Pia desideria163163 Appearing first in 1675 as a preface to Arndt’s Postille, afterward separately,—often printed. are directed essentially to an improving of the ecclesiastical life, to a stronger emphasizing of holiness in the spiritual activity of the church, to a stirring-up of the church-membership to churchly spontaneity, to the bringing about of a more edifying manner of doctrinal. preaching, and, on the other hand, against the misuse of the doctrine of justification by faith. His ethical works proper, though only bearing on particular cases, especially of the inner life, are found in his Theological 253Considerations,164164 Theologische Bedenken, 1700, 1712, 4 vols.; Letzte theol. Bedenken, 1711, 3 vols.; Consilia et judicia theol., 1709, 3 vols., and many other smaller works. which exercised a wide-reaching and wholesome influence on the church.—Spener insisted with much more earnestness on the significancy of spiritual regeneration for the moral life than did the orthodoxy of the day, in its one-sided emphasizing of theoretical faith. The man of the Holy Spirit has nothing in common with the sinful world and its lusts; his total life-stream flows from a new and absolutely. holy fountain; worldly pleasure is foreign and uncongenial to him, and therefore to be avoided. The morality of the Pietists was distinguished primarily by an especial rigor in regard to the sphere of the allowed, inasmuch as it viewed as absolutely unallowable many worldly enjoyments which in the Evangelical Lutheran church had, thus far, been regarded (too unsuspiciously, it is true) as adiaphora, and consequently as not strictly unallowable, especially such as dancing, card-playing, theater-visiting, banqueting, gayness of dress, and the like; it denied altogether that there are any morally indifferent things; whatever is not done to the glory of God, and springs not of faith, is sin; and these amusements cannot consist with a pious frame of the heart,—cannot take place in faith, and to the glory of God. This is, however, only an outer manifestation of a very deep-reaching antithesis of Pietism to the hitherto prevalent views of the Lutheran church. The high evangelical thought of Gospel-freedom and of justification by faith alone, had in fact, in the time of the declining church-life, led, in many respects, to erroneous courses, and had often allowed the moral earnestness of holiness to give place to mere formal orthodoxy, and also sometimes occasioned, in contrast to the severe earnestness of the discipline of the Reformed church, too. careless a regard for the outward forms of the moral life, and had enlarged beyond measure the sphere of morally-indifferent things. The notion had obtained for itself vogue, that whatever is not forbidden in Scripture is allowable. It was the reaction of a truly Christian conscience, which caused Pietism to discard this somewhat presuming maxim, and, in any case, the thought which it opposed thereto was strictly legitimate, namely, that there is nothing indifferent in the entire life-sphere of a regenerated 254person, but that every thing without exception must stand in living relation to the new spiritual life-principle, and that whatever does not admit of a true association. with the same is not simply indifferent, but is un-Christian. Pietism may have made many mistakes in the application of this thought, but the thought itself had, as in contrast to the one-sided orthodoxy then prevalent, its own good right. Furthermore, Spener brought again into the fore-ground the thought which, while indeed dogmatically admitted, had yet never been sufficiently emphasized morally, namely, that faith without works is dead; the sanctification of the heart and life does not simply follow upon, and stand in connection with, true faith, but is in such faith already itself directly contained; there are not two spiritual life-streams, but only one; the moral personality itself as justified by faith admits of no falling apart of faith and morality; all religious life is immediately and necessarily at the same time moral,—is not simply followed by the moral as a second collateral element. In the eyes of declining orthodoxy, religion had become too much a mere objective something by which the religious subject is simply embraced and influenced, but not thoroughly permeated; Pietism brought religion and its divine spirit-principle again entirely within the Christian subject, and caused the subject, as now transformed, to create a new Spirit-witnessing, objective morality. The Christian conscience is quickened and made more vigorously active by Pietism; the views thus far prevalent in the Lutheran church are, in the eyes of Pietism, not strictly conscientious, seeing that they tolerate many manners of action which do not flow from the Christian conscience, and are not consistent with it.—The morality of Pietism is by no means of a predominantly outwardly-active working character,—is in fact very different from the more recent activity of the “inner mission,” but is predominantly subjective,—is one-sidedly directed toward the morally-pious heart-condition of the subject, and sustains to the outer world rather a rejecting, negating and uninterested relation; the ascetic tendency which constantly grew more prominent, especially among Spener’s followers, rose even to a manifest preference of celibacy to marriage, and to an avoidance of political offices (in the spirit of Tertullian), and to a refusing of military service. When its orthodox opponents reproached 255Pietism with an unevangelical seeking of sanctification by works, with a tendency to the monkish spirit and the like, they did not do it full justice; and it was in vain that they undertook to check the historically-justified movement, and, notwithstanding all their hostile exaggerations, they saw very clearly the questionable narrownesses of the movement they opposed—more clearly than they saw their own; and it is not exclusively through Pietism, but also in virtue of the opposition which it awoke, that the religiously-moral consciousness of the church was stimulated to a higher life.—The Pietistic tendency proper, because of its disinclination to abstract science, produced no ethical works of importance; most important are: Breithaupt: Theol. moralis (1732, 4to.; Institt theol., 3 parts, 1716), and the moral parts of Joachin Lange’s Oeconomia salutis (1728.) But the popular Pietistic works, written for the masses of the church, were more influential.
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