The Unfailing Moral Standard

- from "Toleration" by John Bigelow

CHAPTER III - Part 1
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ONE of the Roman Emperors is reported to have had the negative or prohibitory form of the Golden Rule written conspicuously in letters of gold on the walls of his palace: Quod tibi fieri non vis, alteri ne faceris ("What you would not wish done to yourself, do not to another"). Confucius had presented it to the world in the same form many centuries before Romulus and Remus had been heard of.

It is a wonderful provision of Divine Providence that our natural selfishness, which is al. ways an attempt to usurp or appropriate to ourselves the attributes of God, and which it is the great purpose of our creation and training in this world to extirpate, should be one of the most important agencies to make us constantly aware of our duty to our neighbor.

The instant anything in our lives disturbs, disappoints, annoys, vexes, offends or afflicts us, we know whether under the like circumstances the same thing would disturb, disappoint, annoy, vex, off end or afflict not only one but every one of our fellow creatures. That consciousness, or conscience, is our constant, our inseparable companion. This is an ethical school in which everyone is a pupil all his life.

It is an equally marvelous provision of Providence that, just so fast and so far as we overcome the selfishness or selfhood which is born in us, and acquire the habit of doing to others as we would have others do to us, just so fast and so far we are warranted in expecting that the visits of these messengers of discomfort, mercifully sent to warn us of our duties to one another and the peril of neglecting them, will become less frequent because less necessary.

Our natural selfishness will always incline us to extenuate or be unconscious of wrongs we may have done or may be doing to another, but when we witness the same act done to ourselves, or even to others by others, we are apt to swell with sudden resentment. Do we not constantly hear almost every social and political vice denounced in unmeasured terms by people who are unconsciously more or less guilty of them all? Who more prompt to rebuke in others their social and political aspirations, their lusts of wealth or power than those who share them most? The disciples of Jesus rebuked the mothers who brought their children to be touched by Jesus. When Zebedee's wife asked Jesus that her two sons might sit, one on His right hand and one on His left in his kingdom, the ten when they heard of it were indignant. Jesus, however, shared neither their jealousy nor their indignation.


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