Church Education Trust

Christian Belief

ST008/4 The Character of the Moral Life.


The Character of the Moral Life.

The moral life can be thought of as regards to God, ourselves and society. It has its own obligations and duties.

1. As Regards God-Christian Duties to God.

As far as the Christian is concerned God is the Supreme Good - the Summum Bonum, and our attitude and duties to Him form the basis and background of all other duties, both individual and social. Our Christian living springs from our union with God. There appear to be three main virtues and three main duties in our relationship with God. 

The virtues are faith, hope and love; and the duties reverence, prayer and worship. It is by means of these that we continually put God in the first place. Without these the practice of ethics would be nothing but legalism and Pharisaism, but with them in operation it becomes alive, the outflow of divine love, warm, real and true.

It is not necessary in this introduction to Christian Ethics to give more than a brief account of these virtues and duties. They have more to do with the Christian's devotional life and are dealt with in other realms of Christian instruction.

The Virtues.

Faith is both an act and an attitude or habit. As an act it is the outreaching of the whole being toward another, the Lord Himself. As an attitude it is the conscious repose in the merits of another.

Hope furnishes the active whereby we can trust with unwavering confidence in the Word of God and in God Himself. It looks ahead and expects God to be as good as His word and fulfil His plans and purposes. Love means divine love and not just natural love. It means that we give ourselves wholly to God as our sovereign good. It results in complacency in all that is good and that is the will of God, and also in desiring good to another on his own account, without thinking of its own benefit.

The Duties.


Wiley considers this to be the fundamental duty to God. It has been called a "profound respect mingled with fear and affection" and a "synthesis of love and fear". It is the sentiment from which all worship springs. Without it there can be no possibility of true worship. Prayer is a Christian duty and, if it is to be acceptable, must be offered to God through Christ and in the Spirit. 

There is prayer which is talking to God and communing with Him; there is petition which is asking God for things; there is prayer which is supplication and intercession for others. All these also have various other forms. Ejaculatory prayer is the result of a devotional attitude of life and Wakefield refers to it as "those secret and frequent aspirations of the heart to God for general or particular blessings, by which a just sense of our habitual dependence upon God and of our wants and dangers may be expressed while we are employed in the common affairs of life." 

Private prayer refers to our own devotional times spent in the presence of God. Family and social prayer has to do with prayer in our relationship with others and public prayer relates to public worship.

Worship has been called the supreme ethical duty towards God. It is the uniting of all the emotional, volitional and intellectual powers of the being going out in adoration, thanksgiving and obedience to God. Meditation,contemplation and prayer are all included. True worship has been called the "I thank you" of the heart to God and is the very fountain of our spiritual life.

When members of the church who know the reality of private worship come together to worship God, and they are moved upon by the Holy Spirit, one of the highest peaks of communion with God is reached. Much that is called divine worship is far from the reality. Dr. P.F.Bresee has a Great passage on this subject in a sermon entitled "The Lamb amid the Blood-washed".

He says - "Worship rises high above all forms. If it attempts to find, utterance through them it will set them on fire, and glow and burn in their consuming flame and rise as incense to God. If it starts out with the impartation and the receiving of the great thought of God; if it waits to hear His infinite will and eternal love, it spreads its pinions to fly to His bosom, there to breathe out its unutterable devotion.

We have here the way of worship. They cry with a loud voice, saying 'Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb' (Rev.7:9-17). It is not the learning of some new thing; not a new shading of some thought that is a matter of interest; it is not the repeating, parrot like, of some new form.

But it is the cry of the soul, deep, earnest, intense, loud; the farthest removed from what might be regarded as cathedral service, with the intoning of prayer and praise, and where the light falls but dimly, the muffled music and sentiment rolling back upon the mind in subdued sensibility.

I suppose this is about the best earth-born, man-made form of worship one can find. But that which is here described is something altogether different. It is also equally far removed from a gathering of the people, who, without solemnity or soul earnestness wait to be sung at, and prayed at and preached at, until the time comes when they can decently get away.

The worship here seen rises from every soul; it is the outbursting passion of every heart; it breaks forth like a mighty tornado. One thing seems certain, the worship of the blood-washed company is not the still small voice."

< back to previous page >

©2008 Church Education Trust