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SECTION LII. The Moral.
In so far as a rational creature realizes the good rationally, that is, with a consciousness of the good end, and with a free will, it is moral. The moral is the good in so far as it is realized by the free will of a rational creature; and. in this manifestation of rational life, both the will, and also the action and the end, are moral; and true morality consists in the complete harmony of these three elements. Morality is therefore the life of a rational being who accomplishes the good with conscious freedom, and, hence, works the harmony of existence,—as well the harmony 9of its own being with God as also (and in fact thereby) the harmony of the being in and with itself and with all other beings, in so far as they themselves are in harmony with God. Morality, therefore, embraces within itself two phases of rational life: on the one hand, it preserves and develops the normal autonomy and peculiarity of the moral subject,—does not let it vanish into, or be absorbed by, God or the All,—for there is harmony only where there is a distinctness and individuality of the objects compared; on the other hand, it does not permit this difference to become an antagonism or contradiction, but preserves it in unity,—shapes it into rational harmony. The moral is therefore the beautiful in the sphere of rational freedom,—is rationally self-manifesting freedom itself. To be rational and to be moral is, in the sphere of freedom, one and the same thing.
Moralness bears the same relation to the goodness of mere nature-objects, as conscious freedom to unconscious necessity. The goodness of creatures is not their mere being, but their life, for God whose image they are, is life; God is not a God of the dead but of the living. Hence the goodness of rational creatures is essentially life also, and in this life morality realizes the good. With this view of morality we may properly enough speak also of a morality of God; the fact that human morality is really a progressive development of the image of God, even presupposes this; moreover the Scriptures positively express this thought, and there is no good ground for explaining it away. God is good [טוֹב] and upright; [ישׁר; Deut. xxxii, 4; Psa. xxv, 8]; hence our German hymn: “O God, thou upright God!”) is strictly Biblical. God, as the absolutely holy will, is perfect morality itself, inasmuch as his entire being and activity are in perfect accord with his will and essence, and inasmuch as his infinite justice and love establish and uphold the harmony of life in the created universe. God’s morality is his holiness. For this reason God 10is also the perfect prototype and pattern of all morality; “ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy” [Lev. xi, 45]; also virtue, ἀρετή, in the strict sense of the word, is attributed to God [1 Pet. ii, 9; 2 Pet. i, 3]. Hence, man is moral not merely in general, in that he makes God’s will the law of his life, but more specifically, in that he makes God’s morality his pattern. In God all good is also moral or holy; in the creature; all that is moral is also good, but all that is good is not also moral.
Rothe objects to the more common notion of the moral, because it embraces only the idea of the morally-good, but not that of the moral in its secondary sense; in his view a definition of the moral should include also the morally-evil. It is evidently proper, however, to confine a notion primarily to the normal manifestation of its contents, and to treat the contrary manifestation as an abnormal perversion. Surely, for example, it would be too much to ask that the notion of the rational be so conceived as to embrace also the irrational,—that of organism, so as to include also disease. In fact the objection of Rothe has weight with him, chiefly for the reason that, in his system, evil is viewed not as a merely morbid phenomenon, but on the contrary as a necessary transition-state of development; in which case, of course, a definition of the moral would have to include also evil.
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