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SECTION LV. Relation of Morality to Religion.

The religious consciousness,—which expresses the conditionment of our being and life by God, and which, as a state of heart, is piety,—is necessarily and intimately connected with morality, so that neither is possible without the other; yet they are not identical. Religion and morality, both, bring man into relation to God. In religion, however, his relation is rather of a receptive character,—he permits the divine to rule in him; in morality he is more self-active, he reflects forth the God-pleasing from within himself. In religion he exalts himself to communion with God; in morality he evidences this communion by developing the divine image both in himself and in the external world. In religion he turns himself away from finite individuality and multiplicity, and toward the unitary central-point of all life; in morality he turns himself from this divine life-center as a basis, toward the periphery of created being,—from unity toward multiplicity,—in order to manifest the former in the latter. The two movements correspond to the double life-stream in every natural organism, and hence they are simply two inseparably united phases of one and the same spiritual life; and the very commencement of spiritual life involves the union of them both. In religion and in morality God glorifies himself no less than in creation,—in religion for and in man, in morality through man; and the moral man, in that lie fulfills God’s will in and for the world, actually accomplishes the divine 16purpose in creation,—the free moral activity of man being, in fact, the divinely-willed continuation and completion of the work of creation.

The consciousness that we, as separate individuals, have no absolutely self-sufficient and independent existence and rights, as also that we are not simply dependent on other finite powers, but, on the contrary, on an infinite divine first cause, is of a religious character; and the spiritual life that develops itself on the basis of this consciousness is the religious life. In so far, however, as it is a disposition or state of heart, that is, in so far as it expresses itself in the feeling of love to God and in the thence-arising habit of will, it is piety,—in which form it assumes directly also the character of morality. A pious life is per se also a moral one; and morality is the practical outgoing of piety. Religion and morality are therefore most closely and inseparably associated; as morality rests on the recognition that the good is either the actual state or the final destination of all existence, and as this recognition, even in its rudest forms, is of a religious character (since the “good” can have no meaning save as the divine ultimate destination of creation), hence morality without religion is impossible, and its character rises and falls with the clearness and correctness of the religious consciousness. He who despises religion is also immoral; and the immoral man is also correspondingly irreligious; all immorality is a despising of God, since it is a despising of the good as the God-like. As now, on the other hand, religion is a believing, and hence a free, loving recognition of the divine, and as it places man in a living relation with God, hence all religion is per se also moral, and religion without morality is inconceivable.

Thus, whatever is moral is religious, and whatever is religious is moral; and yet these two are not identical; every religious life includes in itself a moral will, and every moral action contains a religious element,—implies religious faith; “without faith it is impossible to please God” [Heb. xi, 6]. This looks like a contradiction utterly irreconcilable save by making religion and morality absolutely one and the same thing. Things, however, that are indissolubly associated, as, 17for example, heat and light in the rays of the sun, need not for that reason be identical. In the religiously-moral life two things are always united: our individual personality as a relatively self-dependent legitimate entity, and the recognition of God as the unconditioned ground of our entire being and life,—that is to say, an affirming and also a relative negating of our separate individuality, an active and a passive element. Both are equally true and important; the one calls for the other, and either, taken separately for itself, would be untrue; the two must exist in harmony and unity. The passive phase—the emphasizing of the being of God in the presence of which individual being retires into the background and appears only as conditioned and dependent—is the religious phase of the spiritual life; the active phase—that is, the emphasizing of the personal element by virtue of which man appears, as an initiative actor with the mission, as a free personality, of carrying farther forward in the spiritual sphere the creative work of God—is the moral phase. The religious life is, so to speak, centripetal; moral life, as radiating out from the middle-point, is centrifugal; the former corresponds, in the spiritual life, to the functions of the veins of the body; the latter is more like the arteries, which, receiving from the lungs, through the heart, the vitalized out-gushing blood, distribute it nourishingly and productively through the body, and ramify themselves out toward the periphery, whereas the veins conduct it back from the outermost ramifications toward the center. In correspondence to this figure, the separate outgoings of the moral life are more manifold than are the center-seeking manifestations of the religious life. Hence piety, by its very nature, tends to a communion of pious life-expression, to the social worship of God; but in morality the person comes into prominence more in his self-dependent individuality: in the sphere of morality, moral communion rests more on the moral individuals; in that of piety, the pious personality rests more upon pious communion and upon the spirit which inspires this communion. In the moral sphere, Christ says to the individual: “Go thou and do likewise;” in that of religion he says: “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Secret prayer does not conflict with this, 18for it is only one phase of piety; the piety of the recluse is simply morbid.

Religious life is only then genuine when it is at the same time also moral,—when it does not in Pantheistico-mystical wise dissolve and merge the individual into God; the one-sidedly religious life which lightly esteems outward morality entangles itself inevitably in this quietistic renunciation of personality. Moral life is healthy only when it is at the same time also religious,—when the person does not assume to live and act as an isolated being from an unconditioned autonomy of its own independently of God; it is, however, as distinguished from the religious life, essentially a virtualizing of liberty. The one-sidedly moral life, that is, the attempt to virtualize personal freedom without religion, leads to the reverse of the morally-religious life—to haughtiness of personality as of an absolutely independent power, to an atheistic idolizing of the creature, and, in practice, to a throwing off of all obligation that conflicts with personal enjoyment. The moral life is therefore true and good only when the virtualization of the freedom and independence of the person is rational, that is, essentially religious; and it becomes morally evil so soon as it asserts its freedom as unconditioned and apart from God.

Piety and morality consequently mutually condition each other,—develop themselves in no other way than in union with each other. It is true, the first beginning of the religiously-moral life is, in so far; the religious phase, as all religion rests upon a revelation of God to man, that is, upon a receiving, and not upon a personal doing; but this revelation is only then our- own, the contents of our religious spirit, when we embrace it in faith, and this embracing is a free, a moral activity. Hence even the first incipiency of the rational, the morally-religious life includes in immediate and necessary union both phases of the same, so that, though in logic we may speak of the one as being; antecedent to the other, yet in point of reality we cannot so speak. Should this seem enigmatical to the understanding, still it is no more enigmatical than is the nature of all and every life-beginning; and just as little as we can deny the reality of the beginning of man’s natural life, for the reason that it is absolutely hidden 19and mysterious—so that we can neither say that the material being of the same is antecedent to its spiritual power nor the converse,—even so little can we hope to solve the mystery of the beginning of the religiously-moral life, by assuming the one or the other of its phases as the first and fundamental one. The plant, in developing itself out of its embryo, grows upward and downward almost simultaneously; if it is insufficiently rooted it fades; if it cannot grow upward it decays; the sending out of roots corresponds to religion; the development into foliage and fruit, to morality. Also in the further development of the rational life these two phases are constantly associated, and in their associated unity and harmony consists the spiritual health of man. We are religious in so far as we recognize that God is the unconditioned ground of our being and moral life; moral, in so far as by our free life we confess in acts that God is for us the absolute rule of action,—that we are free accomplishers of the divine will. In religion, God is for us; in morality, we are for God; in the former God is manifested to us; in the latter God is manifested in and through us. “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” [Gal. ii, 20]; this is the essence of Christian morality. “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” [Rom. viii, 14]; that is, religion is the vitality of morality, and morality the factive life-manifestation of religion, and consequently of divine sonship. “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” [Eccl. xii, 13; comp. Deut. x, 12]; hence the fear of God is the ground and beginning of moral wisdom; “this is the fear of God, that we keep his commandments” [1 John v, 3]. According to the uniform tenor of Scripture, religion and morality go always hand in hand; this is aptly expressed by Luther in his Catechism: “We should fear and love God, in order that,” etc.; the fear of God necessarily involves the keeping of the commandments, and this fear is itself of moral character, as is implied by the very word “should”; “if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door” [Gen. iv, 7]. Hence the usual Scripture expression for morality is: “to walk before God” [Gen. xvii, 1; xxiv, 40], that is, to act out of a full consciousness of the holy and almighty One, in full trust and love to Him; or: “to walk with God” [Gen. v, 22, 24; vi, 9], to “keep the way of the Lord” and “do justice and judgment” [Gen. xviii, 19], “to walk in God’s ways,” “to serve the Lord” and “to keep his commandments and statutes” [Deut. x, 12]; and God’s exhortation to the progenitor of the Israelites is: “I am the Almighty God, [therefore] walk before me and be thou perfect” [Gen. xvii, 1].

The glorifying of God in religion and morality is the completing of his glorification in nature. In religion, God permits the man who comes into living communion with Him, to behold his glory; in morality God permits men to show forth his glory—to let their light shine before others that they also may praise the Father in heaven. The will of God in creation was not as yet fulfilled at the conclusion of the creative act. “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness,” —but this image is God-like, not in its mere being, but only in its rational, moral life. God created the world for rational creatures, in order that for them and through them his image might be manifested in creation,—that is to say, in the interest of moral development. Hence sin is treachery against God, an infringement on his honor. Morality looks to the honor, not of man, but of God; it is per se a serving of God, and all divine service or worship is a moral act.

The relation of religion to morality is often stated quite differently from the view here presented. The more important of these views are the following four:

(1) Religion and morality are totally identical. In developing this view, the one is necessarily reduced to the other. (a) Morality is entirely merged into religion—the view of all consistent mysticism; man has nothing to do but to give himself entirely over to God; and wisdom consists not in acting, but, on the contrary, in renouncing all practical activity (Eckart, Tauler, Molinos). (b) Religion is entirely merged into morality. Morality is directly in and of itself true religion; to be moral is identical with being pious; outside of virtue. there is no piety which is not only not simply associated with virtue, but which is not, in fact, itself virtue;—the view of the worldly-minded in general, and, particularly, of the “illuminism” of the eighteenth century.

(2) Religion and morality are in their entire nature radically 21different, and hence entirely independent of each other; the one may exist without the other. This is the view of all the naturalistic systems of recent date. It is at once refuted by the simple fact that the different religions have given rise to correspondingly different systems of morality.—In approximation to this view, Rothe affirms (Ethik, I, Seite, 191, sqq.) at least a predominant non-dependence of the two spheres on each other.

His position is as follows:—Morality and piety, while not entirely different, are yet relatively independent and self-based. Each has indeed a certain relation to the other, and there is no morality which is not, in some degree, also piety; both have the same root, namely, the personality; but the two form, nevertheless, independent branches strictly coetaneous. The consciousness of this relative independence of morality belongs among the inalienable conquests of recent culture,—namely, the consciousness that an individual human life may be relatively determined by the idea of the moral, nay, even by the idea of the morally good, or, more definitely, by the idea of human dignity and of humanity, without at the same time being determined by the idea of God,—and indeed in such a manner that it shall possess this idea of the moral as not derived to it from the idea of God. The Christian moralist cannot refuse to recognize this consciousness. The misconception, that morality can rest on no other basis than the religious relation, would at once vanish, could moralists determine to keep distinct the moral sensu medio, from the morally-good. For, that there can be moral evil on a basis other than a religious one, will of course be questioned by none. It is true, when strictly understood or comprehended, the idea of the moral cannot arise apart from the idea of God.—These last two statements of Rothe undermine his entire position; for the question here is not at all as to evil, but exclusively as to the morally-good; and it is hardly possible that any one would argue thus: Because evil can exist without religion, therefore also the good can exist without religion. Moreover, in admitting that without religion man can be morally-good only relatively, but not truly, Rothe implicitly admits also that morality is in fact not a something existing alongside of religion and in real independency of it; consequently the above-assumed 22morality that is independent of religion, is but mere appearance.

(3) Religion is the first, the basis, also in point of time; while morality is the second, the sequence. This is the most usual, also ecclesiastical, view; and as applied to Christian morality it is also undoubtedly correct, since here the question is as to being redeemed from a presupposed immoral state; in which case, of course, the religious back-ground forms the basis of the renewal, from which, as a starting-point, the moral will, in general, must rise to freedom. Where, however, the moral life does not presuppose a spiritual regeneration, there no moment of the religious life is conceivable in which it does not also contain in itself the moral element,—thus absolutely precluding the idea of a precedency of one to the other; moreover, even in the spiritual regeneration of the sinner, the process of being morally laid hold upon by the sanctifying Spirit of God, issues directly into a willing, and hence moral, laying hold upon the offered grace of God.

(4) Morality is the first, the basis, while religion is the second, the sequence, also in point of time; the moral consciousness of the practical reason is the ground upon which the God-consciousness springs up;—so taught the school of Kant, and in part, also, Rationalism. This view, in its practical application, coincides largely with that one which merges the religious into the moral. It is true, appeal is made to the passage in John vii, 7: “If any one will do his will,” etc.; here, however, the question is not as to the religious consciousness in general, but as to the recognition of Christ as the Messenger of God. But whoever purposes to do the will of God, must have a consciousness of God already.

From the intimate unity of religion and morality, which we have insisted upon, results readily the solution of the question, as to how and whence we can have a knowledge of the moral condition of humanity as pure and unfallen. The sources of a knowledge of religion are at the same time, also, the sources of an acquaintance with morality; and religion throws light not only upon what has transpired and now is, since the fall, but also upon what preceded all sin. Thus we have for morality in general, as well as for the consideration 23of morality irrespectively of sin, the following sources of information:—l. The rational, morally-religious human consciousness, both as it is yet extant even in the natural man, and also, as it is enlightened by divine grace in the redeemed.—2. The historical revelation of God in the Old and New Testaments. Although as bearing upon the moral sphere Revelation relates predominantly to the actual sinful condition of humanity, yet it contains also, at the same time, the holy will of God to man per se. The moral law of Christ, “Thou shalt love thy God,” etc., is in fact absolutely valid, not only for such as are as yet implicated in sin, but also for man per se, and irrespectively of sin; moreover, it is not difficult for the Christian who has become acquainted with the divine economy of grace to distinguish, in the divine precepts, that which is intended for the chastening and discipline of the sinner, from that which is morally binding per se.—3. From the personal example of Him who knew no sin, from the holy humanity of the Redeemer.—So much here merely preliminarily.

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