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THE moral idea rests upon that of purpose or end. An end is an idea to be realized by a life-movement. Whatever answers to an idea is good relatively to that idea. Whatever answers to, and perfectly realizes, a rational, and hence also a divine, idea, is good absolutely. All divine life and activity has a divine purpose; whatever God brings to realization is therefore absolutely good,—is in perfect harmony with the divine will.—A nature-object is good per se and directly, in virtue of the creative act itself; and whatever is implied in it, as an end to be attained to by development, is actually realized in fact by an inner divinely-willed necessity. The essence of a rational creature is per se likewise good; but its full realization as that of a truly rational being, that is, its rational end, is not directly forced upon it by natural necessity, but is proposed to it as to be realized by its own rational, and hence free, activity. The goodness of a merely natural being lies in the necessarily self-fulfilling purpose of God in the creature; that of a rational creature lies in the free, self-fulfilling, 6through it, of the will of God to the creature. The divine will is, in the latter case, not merely an end for God, it is also a conscious end for the rational creature. The good in general, in so far as it is a conscious end for a rational creature, is a (concrete) good. In as far as this good is unitary and perfect, and hence perfectly answering to the divine will as to the creature, it is the highest good,—which consequently must also be absolutely one and, for all rational creatures, essentially the same, namely, their fully attained rational perfection. Hence all rational development of a rational creature aims at the realization of the highest good.

As far back as in ancient Greece, philosophers have engaged in the discussion of the notion of the good, and of the highest good, and have proposed various definitions thereof,—those of Aristotle being in the main correct. In and of itself the question is quite simple; it becomes difficult only when we look upon the actual condition of man without fully taking into account the antagonism of his reality with his ideal, and are for that reason unable clearly to distinguish in human aspirations the abnormal from the normal. As to the notion of the relatively good, there is no dispute; it is always the. agreement of a reality with an idea or with another reality, and hence is based on the thought of a mutual congruity of the manifold.—The simple and true notion of the good is indicated in Gen. i, 3, 4, 31; [comp. 1 Tim. iv, 4]. God speaks and it comes to pass; the reality is the perfect expression of the divine thought and will, and hence, of its own ideal. We have here the notion, not merely of the relatively good, but of the absolutely good; relatively good is every harmonizing or congruence of the different; absolutely good is a harmonizing with God. Hence, first of all, God himself is good and the prototype of all good [Psa. xxv, 8; lxxxvi, 5; Matt. xix, 17],—good relatively to himself, as being in perfect harmony with himself,—good relatively to his creatures, in that He sustains them in the form of life which He gave 7them, that is, in their true peculiarities and autonomy, and constantly manifests himself to them as their loving God and Father [Psa. xxxiv, 9]. A creature is good in so far as it is an image of God,—namely, such a revelation of the divine as is conditioned by the normal peculiarity of the creature,—and, from another point of view, in so far as its actual state is in harmony with its essence, its ideal, and hence also (since all creatures are created for each other) with the totality of creation. Every thing that God created was “very good” also in this respect, namely, that the different creatures constituted among themselves a perfectly concordant and harmonious whole; “it was not good that the man should be alone,” seeing that a finite creature is, in its very essence, not a mere isolated individual, but should constitute a member of a community. Hence the expression טוב has also the signification of κάλος, gratus, jucundus, suavis; we attribute this quality to an object as bearing upon ourselves in so far as it harmonizes with and reflects our own peculiarities,—in so far as we feel an affinity for it and are enriched and furthered by it in our life-sphere and activity. Hence, that is truly good for man which contributes to the attainment of his true, divinely-intended perfection, and hence, in the last instance, this perfection itself. Now, a mere nature-object possesses the good within itself as a necessary law, and cannot but realize it; but a rational creature has it within itself as a rational consciousness, as a free law, as a command, and it may decline to realize it. In a nature-object the end fulfills itself; in a rational creature it is fulfilled only by the free will of the same. Nature-objects are, in and of themselves, an image of God; but man was created not only in accordance with the image of God, but also unto it,—has this image before him as a goal to be attained to by free action, as a rational task.

Whatever is good is good for some object, and is for the same, in so far as actually appropriated by it, a good. That only can be a true good which is good absolutely, that is, divine; all true goods are front God [James i, 17], and lead to God. The idea of the highest good we propose here to determine, preliminarily, not as to its contents, but simply as to its form. It cannot belong exclusively to any one phase 8of man’s being, but must consist in the symmetrical completion of his life as a whole; hence it cannot be simply the perfection of his isolated individuality as such, but only as a living member of the living whole. Nor is the highest good a merely relatively higher among many other less high goods, otherwise the sum total of the former together with these latter would amount to something higher still; on the contrary all goods collectively, as far as they are really such, must be single elements of the highest good; and the simple fact that a particular object which I desire, and which hence seems to me as a good, is adapted to be a manifestation or an element of the highest good, is clear proof that it is a real, and not a merely seeming, good. Whatever a man aims after appears to him as a good; whatever he shuns, as an evil; and rationality consists in the fact that he aim not at the seemingly, but at the really, good, and, in each single good, at the highest good; and this aiming is itself good. The highest good is, consequently, the highest perfection of the rational personality, or the perfect development of God-likeness, or, in other words, the perfect agreement of the actual state of man’s entire being and life with his ideal, that is, with the will of God,—which all are, in fact, only so many different expressions for the same thing. Whatever contributes to this highest end is good; whatever leads from it is evil.

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