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 alon
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.