The Unfailing Moral Standard

- from "Toleration" by John Bigelow

CHAPTER I - Part 1
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EVERYONE has a standard by which he determines for himself what is right and what is wrong. No race of men has yet been discovered, nor is there a plausible reason for supposing there ever existed any individual or any race of human beings so rude and degraded as to lack entirely the faculty of distinguishing between what they regarded as good and what they regarded as evil; what they regarded as true, and what false; what they regarded as right, and what wrong.

While every being created in God's image has notions of what he deems right and wrong, it does not follow that any two will commend or denounce precisely the same act, or, if they should, that they would commend or denounce any particular act for precisely the same reason or in precisely the same degree; still less that either will ever rise to the comprehension of the absolute good or the absolute evil. When we speak of a man's good or evil acts, we judge his conduct either by his standard or by our own. No one of us can ever pretend to know what is right or wrong according to the standards of Infinite Wisdom. Is there, then, any universal standard that all will accept? Yes, and no! Paradoxical as it may appear, there is one standard which all will recognize, and yet the standards of no two. persons are ever entirely the same.

The only standard of duty common to all people is to be found in the universal recognition of the propriety of doing unto others as we would that others, under precisely like circumstances, should do unto us, and of doing nothing unto others which, under precisely similar circumstances, we should not wish done unto us. There are sections of the human family who have what appear to be other, or at least supplementary standards from which they take no appeal. A considerable portion of the civilized world accepts the Bible, or parts of it at least, as defining the highest standard of duty; another considerable portion looks to the writings of Confucius for its moral guidance; still larger numbers to the Koran of Mohammed, and other considerable portions to the teachings of Buddha and of Brahma. The Mormon Bible is also a final standard with some, but it is safe to say that no two persons attach precisely the same importance or the same significance to any of these codes, while it is not possible to conceive of a rational per. son, be he Jew or Gentile, saint or savage, bond or free, contesting the Golden Rule as a standard by which to judge the conduct of his fellow creatures, however careless he may be about living up to that standard himself.


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