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MORALS pertain to right living, to the things we do, in relation to God
and His law, as opposed to right thinking, to what we believe, to
dogma. Dogma directs our faith or belief, morals shape our lives. By
faith we know God, by moral living we serve Him; and this double
homage, of our mind and our works, is the worship we owe our Creator
and Master and the necessary condition of our salvation.

Faith alone will save no man. It may be convenient for the easy-going
to deny this, and take an opposite view of the matter; but convenience
is not always a safe counsellor. It may be that the just man liveth by
faith; but he lives not by faith alone. Or, if he does, it is faith of
a different sort from what we define here as faith, viz., a firm assent
of the mind to truths revealed. We have the testimony of Holy Writ,
again and again reiterated, that faith, even were it capable of moving
mountains, without good works is of no avail. The Catholic Church is
convinced that this doctrine is genuine and reliable enough to make it
her own; and sensible enough, too. For faith does not make a man
impeccable; he may believe rightly, and live badly. His knowledge of
what God expects of him will not prevent him from doing just the
contrary; sin is as easy to a believer as to an unbeliever. And he who
pretends to have found religion, holiness, the Holy Ghost, or whatever
else he may call it, and can therefore no longer prevaricate against
the law, is, to common-sense people, nothing but a sanctified humbug or
a pious idiot.

Nor are good works alone sufficient. Men of emancipated intelligence
and becoming breadth of mind, are often heard to proclaim with a
greater flourish of verbosity than of reason and argument, that the
golden rule is religion enough for them, without the trappings of
creeds and dogmas; they respect themselves and respect their neighbors,
at least they say they do, and this, according to them, is the
fulfilment of the law. We submit that this sort of worship was in vogue
a good many centuries before the God-Man came down upon earth; and if
it fills the bill now, as it did in those days, it is difficult to see
the utility of Christ's coming, of His giving of a law of belief and of
His founding of a Church. It is beyond human comprehension that He
should have come for naught, labored for naught and died for naught.
And such must be the case, if the observance of the natural law is a
sufficient worship of the Creator. What reasons Christ may have had for
imposing this or that truth upon our belief, is beside the question; it
is enough that He did reveal truths, the acceptance of which glorifies
Him in the mind of the believer, in order that the mere keeping of the
commandments appear forthwith an insufficient mode of worship.

Besides, morals are based on dogma, or they have no basis at all;
knowledge of the manner of serving God can only proceed from knowledge
of who and what He is; right living is the fruit of right thinking. Not
that all who believe rightly are righteous and walk in the path of
salvation: losing themselves, these are lost in spite of the truths
they know and profess; nor that they who cling to an erroneous belief
and a false creed can perform no deed of true moral worth and are
doomed; they may be righteous in spite of the errors they profess,
thanks alone to the truths in their creeds that are not wholly
corrupted. But the natural order of things demands that our works
partake of the nature of our convictions, that truth or error in mind
beget truth or error correspondingly in deed and that no amount of
self-confidence in a man can make a course right when it is wrong, can
make a man's actions good when they are materially bad. This is the
principle of the tree and its fruit and it is too old-fashioned to be
easily denied. True morals spring from true faith and true dogma; a
false creed cannot teach correct morality, unless accidentally, as the
result of a sprinkling of truth through the mass of false teaching. The
only accredited moral instructor is the true Church. Where there is no
dogma, there can logically be no morals, save such as human instinct
and reason devise; but this is an absurd morality, since there is no
recognition of an authority, of a legislator, to make the moral law
binding and to give it a sanction. He who says he is a law unto himself
chooses thus to veil his proclaiming freedom from all law. His golden
rule is a thing too easily twistable to be of any assured benefit to
others than himself; his moral sense, that is, his sense of right and
wrong, is very likely where his faith is--nowhere.

It goes without saying that the requirements of good morals are a heavy
burden for the natural man, that is, for man left, in the midst of
seductions and allurements, to the purely human resources of his own
unaided wit and strength; so heavy a burden is this, in fact, that
according to Catholic doctrine, it cannot be borne without assistance
from on high, the which assistance we call grace. This supernatural aid
we believe essential to the shaping of a good moral life; for man,
being destined, in preference to all the rest of animal creation, to a
supernatural end, is thereby raised from the natural to a supernatural
order. The requirements of this order are therefore above and beyond
his native powers and can only be met with the help of a force above
his own. It is labor lost for us to strive to climb the clouds on a
ladder of our own make; the ladder must be let down from above. Human
air-ships are a futile invention and cannot be made to steer straight
or to soar high in the atmosphere of the supernatural. One-half of
those who fail in moral matters are those who trust altogether, or too
much, in their own strength, and reckon without the power that said
"Without Me you can do nothing."

The other half go to the other extreme. They imagine that the Almighty
should not only direct and aid them, but also that He should come down
and drag them along in spite of themselves; and they complain when He
does not, excuse and justify themselves on the ground that He does not,
and blame Him for their failure to walk straight in the narrow path.
They expect Him to pull them from the clutches of temptation into which
they have deliberately walked. The drunkard expects Him to knock the
glass out of his hand: the imprudent, the inquisitive and the vicious
would have it so that they might play with fire, yea, even put in their
hand, and not be scorched or burnt. 'Tis a miracle they want, a miracle
at every turn, a suspension of the laws of nature to save them from the
effects of their voluntary perverseness. Too lazy to employ the means
at their command, they thrust the whole burden on the Maker. God helps
those who help themselves. A supernatural state does not dispense us
from the obligation of practising natural virtue. You can build a
supernatural life only on the foundations of a natural life. To do away
with the latter is to build in the air; the structure will not stay up,
it will and must come down at the first blast of temptation.

Catholic morals therefore require faith in revealed truths, of which
they are but deductions, logical conclusions; they presuppose, in their
observance, the grace of God; and call for a certain strenuosity of
life without which nothing meritorious can be effected. We must be
convinced of the right God has to trace a line of conduct for us; we
must be as earnest in enlisting His assistance as if all depended on
Him; and then go to work as if it all depended on ourselves.


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