The Unfailing Moral Standard

- from "Toleration" by John Bigelow

CHAPTER III - Part 3
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On the contrary, it is of the first importance to recognize as inexorable laws of ethical science:
First, that every man's standard of right and wrong is as liable to differ from every other man's, as his age, education, temperament, health, and environment have differed.

Every man's God is his highest ideal. When we pray that His name be hallowed, by "name" we understand and have in our minds a Being endowed with such attributes as our highest ideal of existence can invest Him with. But as no two men's ideals are the same, so no two men have ever worshipped precisely the same God. It is equally true that no one person worships the same God for any consider. able time. His God necessarily changes with his ideals, and his ideals change the more or less as he strives to apprehend the attributes of God, which can neither be counted nor measured. Of course there must be a corresponding diversity in men's notions of right and wrong.

When at Lystra, Paul the Apostle caused one who had been a cripple from his mother's womb to leap up and walk, the multitude who witnessed it exclaimed: "The gods are come down to us, in the likeness of men;" and they called Barnabas, Jupiter, and Paul, Mercury, because he was the chief speaker, and the priest of Jupiter prepared oxen and garlands to offer sacrifices unto them (Acts xiv. 9).

Second, the essential moral quality of every act of our lives must depend upon the motives or intention which inspired it. So far as that motive is in accord with the supreme and universal law to which I have referred, it deserves to be called a good act so far as its author was concerned. In so far as it was in conflict with this law, it would deserve to be called a bad act so far as its author is concerned, quite irrespective of the physical or phenomenal results of the act itself. The Christ is ever saying to all of us as he said to the Centurion, "Go thy way; as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee."

Swedenborg professes to have found confirmation of this view of moral responsibility in the spiritual world. He says:


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