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Conclusion: Inadequacy of the Merely Moral Motive

IN our brief survey of the subject of Morality and its Virtues, we have sought to present morality as that intermediate field of secondary motives through which man applies his primary, or spiritual, motives to the actual needs of his social environment. The moral virtues are all rational in origin, and do not involve either a mere obedience to bodily instincts or a blind subserviency to the customs of society. But like the laws of charity, they come "not to destroy, but to fulfill".

None can question the utter necessity for obedience to moral laws, both on the part of individuals and on the part of nations and governments. For society is not regenerated by legislation. It is individuals who create public opinion, and it is upon individuals that responsibility must always rest. As man learns to master the secrets of nature and to wield powers that might blow all civilization into atoms, he must also learn to set up self-imposed moral ideals, to live socially, and to turn his skill to the pursuits of peace and his strength to its defense. Otherwise mankind is headed for certain destruction.

But the world takes less kindly to the more cogent fact that the laws of morality cannot lead to any regeneration of society without the guidance of a conscience of spiritual good and truth. Virtues of a sort exist with all men, as "natural goods". Yet they maintain themselves as virtues only when they are properly interrelated and balanced, and subordinated to a spiritual conscience. Justice and judgment--the bulwarks of the moral life--then become also the foundation of the Lord's throne.

The failure of a merely moral motive is often described in the Writings. And the inadequacy of mere morality is frequently seen in modern social trends and attitudes. When, for an instance, the moral sense of many in the world is shocked by the distress caused by the natural increase of the population, the simple solution which occurs to them is to limit the offspring to, say, two children per family, since these two could then be better educated, fed, and housed. We shall not try to disprove this argument from the merely moral premise; although we do believe that the poor and simple may have an inner life that is equally noble and rich as that of the well-born, who think in terms of a different standard of happiness. But the fallacious element comes from a confusion of moral and spiritual values. The human end in social progress may be the attainment of greater comfort and better cultural advantages. But the Divine end in creation, which is ignored by scientific moralists and social reformers, is that the earth may be the seminary for heaven, a heaven which is open to all men however humble their condition. This application of spiritual values must be consistent, not sporadic. Nor must we apparently acknowledge one spiritual truth in order to deny another spiritual principle in practice. We must, for instance, obviously guard against any idea to the effect that, since the Divine end is the increase of the angelic heavens and its perfection by numbers, any means which stimulate the birth rate should be condoned! Such a tendency of thought would be in direct violation of the Divine provision that populating the heavens can be accomplished only through men's willingness to adopt orderly means.

Without a perception of a spiritual law and a Divine end, there can be no understanding why charity should preserve the weak, and thus, in appearance, pile up unending problems for society. The Spartan ideal of a survival of the fittest and of death to the weak, is all that a materialistic morality can understand. It does not see that the purpose of the strong cannot be that they should destroy the comparatively weak, since in such a competition all would eventually perish; but to aid the weak so that they also may become strong. Spiritual truth, the truth of charity, alone can give the vision of Love.

It is patently impossible for the New Church to adopt any of the moral philosophies of the world, which are often blind to the spiritual values in life, even where they recognize moral values. The New Church must solve its moral and spiritual problems with the aid of its revealed doctrine concerning discrete degrees which shows that our duties and responsibilities to ourselves, to our families, our country, our church, and to the Lord's kingdom, are discretely different and are important so far as they promote the end of creation which is the formation of a heaven from the human race. The church must develop its own idealism in practical life, and distinguish clearly between real and apparent issues. It must have morals which spring from a reason enlightened by Revelation, and may thus look to a gradual formation of societies wherein the Divine Will shall be done on earth as it is done in heaven.

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