And, behold, one came and said to him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?…
This young man was hungry for improvement; that was all right. But there were other things for which he had a stronger hunger. Morality is the endeavour according to a man's power to obey laws, and I will divide moralities into five different kinds.
1. We call that physical morality which consists in the knowledge of men, and of those physical laws which surround them. Thus a man is immoral who violates law in eating and drinking and sleeping.
2. Next is social morality. Men are obliged to obey those laws which connect them with their fellow men; also as members of the household; as neighbours.
3. Next comes civil morality. Men are organized into states and nations.
4. Business morality.What is the relation of obedience in these different spheres to the nature and character of men?
1. All these observances are external. They are not in their nature internal at all. They leave out entirely the vital question of character. A man may be obedient to physical law, and yet be proud. Man is a creature of two worlds; so that when he is called to the other sphere the physical elements which he has accumulated here drop off. The spiritual only he carries with him.
2. This lower morality leaves out of view the higher human relations to God. A man may be an atheist and yet good in lower respects; but it is not fair to measure his genial qualities by his atheism as he has been brought up amidst Christian influences. A man has an immortal self as distinguished from his physical, social, and civil self; what about that part of him which is to live for ever? Are there no laws higher than those which belong to secular affairs, which apply to the higher reason and the moral sense. Are there no laws for faith, imagination in its dealings with religion, which connect a man with the invisible, universal, and infinite? Is there no morality which reaches beyond the earthly sphere? Morality is not complete without religion. There are practical uses in the inferior forms of morality; from them we learn the typical forms of the higher religion. "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar," etc. The lower moralities are schools, as it were; it is a great preparation for religion. Generally speaking the higher you go the more difficult is the achievement. Few men are competent to be eminent artists. In realizing the higher conceptions of religion there are inherent difficulties: but some make it harder than they need. The sun may shine on a slate roof for ever, and yet the garret beneath it may be dark; but make the roof of glass and the sun Will shine through. Let your higher life have the best care.
(H. W. Beecher.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?