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The Christian Ethic

The Christian Ethic

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Published by GLENN DALE PEASE
BY WILLIAM KNIGHT, LL.D.

PROFESSOR OF MORAL PHILOSOPHY

IN THE UNIVERSITY OF ST. ANDREWS
BY WILLIAM KNIGHT, LL.D.

PROFESSOR OF MORAL PHILOSOPHY

IN THE UNIVERSITY OF ST. ANDREWS

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Published by: GLENN DALE PEASE on Jul 11, 2013
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06/21/2014

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THE CHRISTIA ETHICBY WILLIAM KIGHT, LL.D.PROFESSOR OF MORAL PHILOSOPHYI THE UIVERSITY OF ST. ADREWSPREFACE.It is impossible to understand the ChristianEthic aright without some knowledge of theantecedent moral systems of the world,especially the Semitic and the Greek ; norcan we estimate it truly, unless we take noteof the fact that it came into the world " as agrain of mustard seed," destined to grow anddevelop ; and that, in the course of its evolu-tion, it has been influenced collaterally by athousand things, that have conjointly andsuccessively made it what it now is. Inother words, some knowledge of its relationto the past and the future is essential to anadequate understanding, both of its originand its significance for all time.The type of character and action, which isdistinctively the product of the ChristianReligion, has^ — like every. other developmentof the life of mankind — a historical basis ;and its highest vindication will perhaps beviii Preface.found to be its subsequent outcome, or theresults it has wrought out. If its incoming,
 
and its evolution — more especially its " in-creasing purpose " — have developed new-ideals, and created types of character pre-viously unknown, these ideals and typesbecome historic witness-bearers to a fact of immeasurable value to the future of the world.This litrie book is issued as a partialanswer to the question, "What are thedistinctive features of the Christian Ethic, asdistinguished from the other moral systemsof the world?" It must be noted at theoutset, however, that it is a total mistake todivide the philosophy, or the science, of Ethicsinto two sharply contrasted sections — the onedealing with the natural, and the other withthe supernatural — or the one Pagan, and theother Christian. If there be a fundamentalchasm, or " great gulf fixed," between thesetwo — if, in other words, the Christian super-seded the natural Ethic of the world — thediscussion of their mutual relations wouldend, much in the same way as a province isPreface. ixannexed by a victorious army. Throughoutthe Middle Ages the chasm between atureand the Supernatural was widened in an un-natural manner ; and, during that remarkableperiod in the development of the human mind,Ethics — while subordinated to Theology — was manacled by artificial fetters. If, how-ever, one aim of the Christian religion be therestoration of harmony between ature andthe Supernatural, it will be seen that themediaeval tendency was not only unscientific,but was at the same time retrograde.
 
There can be no doubt that the teachingof the Founder of Christianity was primarilymoral teaching, while it involved elements of dogm;i and of experience as well. It is tobe noted at the same time that our inquiryinto the distinctive features of the ChristianEthic does not affect, or even trench upon,theological dogma. It may perhaps be foundthat its_JEthic has occasionally saved theiChristian dogma from crystallising, under therigidity of tradition, by introducing a vital and]progressiv e elem ent, alongside of that which isX Preface.fixed and stationary. On the other hand,and reciprocally, the intellectual or doctrinalaspects of the Christian Ethic have given con-sistency and strength to its morality ; and itsrecognition of the Divine in relation to thehuman, has sometimes saved it from becomingboth meagre and diffuse. The two things — morality and dogma — are at once inde-pendent, and inter-dependent. They areorganically connected as coefficients. Whenone of them has been vital and strong, it hasalways been helpful to the other. If there isno historic instance in which the decay of religious belief has promoted morality, thereis certainly none in which ethical decay hasbeen helpful to religion. The absence of thelatter may not always, or at once, haveundermined morality, but it has never ad-vanced it ; although, it is essential to a strongand stable Ethic that all unverifiable dogmasin reference to Religion be candidly exposed,and deliberately set aside.

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