Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible 
Ethics . The present article will be confined to Biblical Ethics. As there is no systematic presentation of the subject, all that can be done is to gather from the Jewish and Christian writings the moral conceptions that were formed by historians, prophets, poets, apostles. The old history culminates in the story of the perfect One, the Lord Jesus Christ, from whom there issued a life of higher order and ampler range.
I. OT Ethics . As the dates of many of the books are uncertain, special difficulty attends any endeavour to trace with precision the stages of moral development amongst the Hebrews. The existence of a moral order of the world is assumed; human beings are credited with the freedom, the intelligence, etc., which make morality possible. The term ‘conscience’ does not appear till NT times, and perhaps it was then borrowed from the Stoics; but the thing itself is conspicuous enough in the records of God’s ancient people. In Genesis 3:5 we have the two categories ‘good’ and ‘evil’; the former seems to signify in Genesis 1:31 ‘answering to design’ and in Genesis 2:18 ‘conducive to well-being.’ These terms applied sometimes to ends, sometimes to means probably denote ultimates of consciousness, and so, like pain and pleasure, are not to be defined. Moral phenomena present themselves, of course, in the story of the patriarchs; men are described as mean or chivalrous, truthful or false, meritorious or blameworthy, long before legislation Mosaic or other takes shape.
1 . In Hebrew literature the religious aspects of life are of vital moment, and therefore morals and worship are inextricably entangled. God is seen: there is desire to please Him; there is a shrinking from aught that would arouse His anger ( Genesis 20:6; Genesis 39:9 ). Hence the immoral is sinful. Allegiance is due not to an impersonal law, but to a Holy Person, and duty to man is duty also to God. Morality is under Divine protection: are not the tables of the Law in the Ark that occupies the most sacred place in Jehovah’s shrine ( Exodus 40:20 , Deuteronomy 10:5 , 1 Kings 8:9 , Hebrews 9:4 )? The commandments, instead of being arbitrary, are the outflowings of the character of God. He who enjoins righteousness and mercy calls men to possess attributes which He Himself prizes as His own peculiar glory ( Exodus 33:18-19; Exodus 34:6-7 ). Hosea represents the Divine love as longing for the response of human love, and Amos demands righteousness in the name of the Righteous One. Man’s goodness is the same in kind as the goodness of God, so that both may be characterized by the same terms; as appears from a comparison of Psalms 111:1-10; Psalms 112:1-10 .
2 . The OT outlook is national rather than individual. The elements of the community count for little, unless they contribute to the common good. A man is only a fractional part of an organism, and he may be slain with the group to which he belongs, if grievous sin can be brought home to any part of that group ( Joshua 7:19-26 ). It is Israel the people as a whole that is called God’s son. Prayers, sacrifices, festivals, fasts, are national affairs. The highest form of excellence is willingness to perish if only Israel may be saved ( Exodus 32:31-32 , Judges 5:15-18 ). Frequently the laws are, such as only a judge may administer: thus the claim of ‘an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth’ ( Deuteronomy 19:21 ), being a maxim of fairness to be observed by a magistrate who has to decide between contending parties, is too harsh for guidance outside a court of law ( Matthew 5:38-39 ). When Israel sinned, it was punished; when it obeyed God, it prospered. It was not till Hebrew national life was destroyed that individual experiences excited questions as to the equity of Providence (Job, Psalms 37:1-40; Psalms 73:1-28 ) and in regard to personal immortality. In the later prophets, even when the soul of each man is deemed to be of immense interest ( Ezekiel 18:1-32 ), national ideals have the ascendency in thought. It is the nation that is to have a resurrection ( Isaiah 25:8 , Ezekiel 37:1-14 , Hosea 13:14 , Zechariah 8:1-8 ). This ardent devotion to corporate well-being a noble protest against absorption in individual interests is the golden thread on which the finest pearls of Hebrew history are strung.
3 . The Covenant is always regarded as the standard by which conduct is to be judged. Deference to the Covenant is deference to God ( Hosea 6:7; Hosea 8:1 , Amos 3:1-3 ). As God is always faithful, His people prosper so long as they observe the conditions to which their fathers gave solemn assent ( Exodus 24:8; Exodus 24:7 ). The Decalogue, which is an outline of the demands made by the Covenant on Israel, requires in its early clauses faith, reverence, and service; then ( Exodus 20:1-26 , Commandments 5 to 9) the duty of man to man is set forth as part of man’s duty to Jehovah, for Moses and all the prophets declare that God is pleased or displeased by our behaviour to one another. The Tenth Commandment, penetrating as it does to the inward life, should be taken as a reminder that all commandments are to be read in the spirit and not in the letter alone ( Leviticus 19:17-18 , Deuteronomy 6:5-6 , Psalms 139:1-24 , Romans 7:14 ). Human obligations details of which are sometimes massed together as in Exodus 20:1-26; Exodus 21:1-36; Exodus 22:1-31; Exodus 23:1-33 , Psalms 15:1-5; Psalms 24:1-10 include both moral and ceremonial requirements. Nothing is more common in the prophets than complaints of a disposition to neglect the former ( Isaiah 1:11 f., Jeremiah 6:20; Jeremiah 7:21 f., Hosea 6:6 , Amos 5:21 f.). The requirements embrace a great number of particulars, and every department of experience is recognized. Stress is laid upon kindness to the physically defective ( Leviticus 19:14 ), and to the poor and to strangers ( Deuteronomy 10:18-19; Deuteronomy 15:7-11; Deuteronomy 24:17 ff., Job 31:16 ff., Job 32:1-22 , Psalms 41:1 , Isaiah 58:6 ff., Jeremiah 7:5 ff; Jeremiah 22:3 , Zechariah 7:9 f.). Parents and aged persons are to be reverenced ( Exodus 20:12 , Deuteronomy 5:16 , Leviticus 19:32 ). The education of children is enjoined ( Exodus 12:26 f., Exodus 13:8; Exodus 13:14 , Deuteronomy 4:9; Deuteronomy 6:7; Deuteronomy 6:20-25; Deuteronomy 11:19; Deuteronomy 31:12-13; Deuteronomy 32:46 , Psalms 78:5-6 ). In Proverbs emphasis is laid upon industry ( Proverbs 6:6-11 ), purity ( Proverbs 7:6 etc.), kindness to the needy ( Proverbs 14:21 ), truthfulness ( Proverbs 17:7 etc.), forethought ( Proverbs 24:27 ). The claims of animals are not omitted ( Exodus 23:11 , Leviticus 25:7 , Deuteronomy 22:4; Deuteronomy 22:6; Deuteronomy 25:4 , Psalms 104:11-12; Psalms 148:10 , Proverbs 12:10 , Jonah 4:11 ). Occasionally there are charming pictures of special characters (the housewife, Proverbs 31:1-31; the king, 2 Samuel 23:3-4; the priest, Malachi 2:5-7 ). God’s rule over man is parallel with His rule over the universe, and men should feel that God embraces all interests in His thought, for He is so great that He can attend equally to the stars and to human sorrows ( Psalms 19:1-14; Psalms 33:1-22; Psalms 147:3-6 ).
4 . The sanctions of conduct are chiefly temporal (harvests, droughts, victories over enemies, etc.), yet, as they are national, self-regard is not obtrusive. Moreover, it would be a mistake to suppose that no Hebrew minds felt the intrinsic value of morality. The legal spirit was not universal. The prophets were glad to think that God was not limiting Himself to the letter of the Covenant, the very existence of which implied that Jehovah, in the greatness of His love, had chosen Israel to be His peculiar treasure. By grace and not by bare justice Divine action was guided. God was the compassionate Redeemer ( Deuteronomy 7:8 , Hosea 11:1; Hosea 14:4 ). Even the people’s disregard of the Law did not extinguish His forgiving love ( Psalms 25:6 ff; Psalms 103:8 ff., Isaiah 63:9 , Jeremiah 3:12; Jeremiah 31:3; Jeremiah 33:7 f., Micah 7:18 f.). In response to this manifested generosity, an unmercenary spirit was begotten in Israel, so that God was loved for His own sake, and His smile was regarded as wealth and light when poverty and darkness had to be endured. ‘Whom have I in heaven but thee?’ ‘Oh, how I love thy law!’ are expressions the like of which abound in the devotional literature of Israel, and they evince a disinterested devotion to God Himself and a genuine delight in duty. To the same purport is the remarkable appreciation of the beauty and splendour of wisdom recorded in Proverbs 8:1-36 .
II. NT Ethics . While admitting many novel elements ( Matthew 11:11; Matthew 13:17; Matthew 13:35; Matthew 13:52 , Mark 2:21-22 , John 13:34 , Ephesians 2:15 , Hebrews 10:20 , Revelation 2:17; Revelation 3:12; Revelation 5:9 ), Christianity reaffirmed the best portions of OT teaching ( Matthew 5:17 , Romans 3:31 ). Whatsoever things were valuable, Christ conserved, unified, and developed. The old doctrine acquired wings, and sang a, nobler, sweeter song ( John 1:17 ). But the glad and noble life which Jesus came to produce could come only from close attention to man’s actual condition.
1 . Accordingly, Christian Ethics takes full account of sin . The guilty state of human nature, together with the presence of temptations from within, without, and beneath, presents a problem far different from any that can be seen when it is assumed that men are good or only unmoral. Is our need met by lessons in the art of advancing from good to better? Is not the human will defective and rebellious? The moral ravages in the individual and in society call for Divine redemptive activities and for human penitence and faith. Though the sense of sin has been most conspicuous since Christ dwelt among men, the Hebrew consciousness had its moral anguish. The vocabulary of the ancient revelation calls attention to many of the aspects of moral disorder. Sin is a ravenous beast, crouching ready to spring ( Genesis 4:7 ); a cause of wide-spreading misery ( Genesis 3:15-19; Genesis 9:25; Genesis 20:9 , Exodus 20:5 ); is universal ( Genesis 6:5; Gen 8:21 , 1 Kings 8:46 , Psalms 130:3; Psalms 143:2 ); is folly (Prov. passim ); a missing of the mark, violence, transgression, rebellion, pollution ( Psalms 51:1-19 ). This grave view is shared by the NT. The Lord and His Apostles labour to produce contrition. It is one of the functions of the Holy Spirit to convict the world of sin ( John 16:8 ). It is not supposed that a good life can be lived unless moral evil is renounced by a penitent heart. The fountains of conduct are considered to have need of cleansing. It is always assumed that great difficulties beset the soul in its upward movements, because of its past corrupt state and its exposure to fierce and subtle temptations.
2 . In harmony with the doctrine of depravity is the distinctness with which individuality is recognized. Sin is possible only to a person. Ability to sin is a mark of that high rank in nature denoted by ‘personality.’ Christianity has respect to a man’s separateness. It sees a nature ringed round with barriers that other beings cannot pass, capacities for great and varied wickednesses and excellences, a world among other worlds, and not a mere wave upon the sea. A human being is in himself an end, and God loves us one by one. Jesus asserted the immense value of the individual. The Shepherd cares for the one lost sheep ( Luke 15:4-7 ), and has names for all the members of the flock ( John 10:14 ). The Physician, who (it is conceivable) could have healed crowds by some general word, lays His beneficent hands upon each sufferer ( Luke 4:40 ). Remove from the Gospels and the Acts the stories of private ministrations, and what gaps are made ( John 1:35 ff., John 1:3-4 , Acts 8:25-39; Acts 8:16 , etc.). Taking the individual as the unit, and working from him as a centre, the NT Ethic declines to consider his deeds alone ( Matthew 6:1-34 , Romans 2:28-29 ). Actions are looked at on their inner side ( Matthew 5:21-22; Matthew 5:27-28; Matthew 6:1; Matthew 6:4; Matthew 6:6; Matthew 6:18; Matthew 12:34-35; Matthew 23:5; Matthew 23:27 , Mark 7:2-8; Mark 7:18-23 , Luke 16:15; Luke 18:10-14 , John 4:23 f.). This is a prolongation of ideas present to the best minds prior to the Advent ( 1 Samuel 16:7 , Psalms 7:9; Psalms 24:3-4; Psalms 51:17; Psalms 139:2-3; Psalms 139:23 , Jeremiah 17:10; Jeremiah 31:33 ).
3 . The social aspects of experience are not overlooked. Everyone is to bear his own burden ( Romans 14:4 , Galatians 6:5 ), and must answer for himself to the Judge of all men ( 2 Corinthians 5:10 ); but he is not isolated. Regard for others is imperative; for an unforgiving temper cannot find forgiveness ( Matthew 6:14-15; Matthew 18:23-35 ), worship without brotherliness is rejected ( Matthew 5:23-24 ), and Christian love is a sign of regeneration ( 1 John 5:1 ). The mere absence of malevolent deeds cannot shield one from condemnation; positive helpfulness is required ( Matthew 25:41-45 , Luke 10:25-37; Luke 16:19-31 , Ephesians 4:28-29 ). This helpfulness is the new ritualism ( Hebrews 13:16 , James 1:27 ). The family with its parents, children, and servants ( Ephesians 5:22 to Ephesians 6:9 , Colossians 3:18 to Colossians 4:1 ); the Church with its various orders of character and gifts ( Romans 14:1-23; Romans 15:1-33 , Galatians 6:1-2 , 1Co 13:1-13; 1 Corinthians 14:1-40; 1 Corinthians 15:1-58 ); the State with its monarch and magistrates ( Mark 12:14-17 , Romans 13:1-7 , 1 Timothy 2:1-2 ), provide the spheres wherein the servant of Christ is to manifest his devotion to the Most High. ‘Obedience, patience, benevolence, purity, humility, alienation from the world and the “flesh,” are the chief novel or striking features which the Christian ideal of practice suggests’ (Sidgwick), and they involve the conception that Christian Ethics is based on the recognition of sin, of individuality, of social demands, and of the need of heavenly assistance.
4 . The Christian standard is the character of the Lord Jesus Christ , who lived perfectly for God and man. He overcame evil ( Matthew 4:1-11 , John 16:33 ), completed His life’s task ( John 17:4 ), and sinned not ( John 8:46 , 2 Corinthians 5:21 , Heb 4:15 , 1 Peter 2:22 , 1 John 3:5 ). His is the pattern life, inasmuch as it is completely (1) filial, and (2) fraternal. As to (1), we mark the upward look, His readiness to let the heat of His love burst into the flame of praise and prayer, His dutifulness and submissiveness: He lived ‘in the bosom of the Father,’ and wished to do only that which God desired. As to (2), His pity for men was unbounded, His sacrifice for human good knew no limits. ‘Thou shalt love God’; ‘thou shalt love man.’ Between these two poles the perfect life revolved. He and His teachings are one. It is because the moral law is alive in Him that He must needs claim lordship over man’s thoughts, feelings, actions. He is preached ‘as Lord’ ( 2 Corinthians 4:5 ), and the homage which neither man ( Acts 10:25-26 ) nor angel ( Revelation 22:8-9 ) can receive He deems it proper to accept ( John 13:13 ). Could it be otherwise? The moral law must be supreme, and He is it. Hence alienation from Him has the fatal place which idolatry had under the Old Covenant, and for a similar reason, seeing that idolatry was a renunciation of Him who is the righteous and gracious One. Since Jesus by virtue of His filial and fraternal perfectness is Lord, to stand apart from Him is ruinous ( Luke 10:13-16 , John 3:18; John 8:24; John 15:22-24; John 16:8-9 , Hebrews 2:3; Hebrews 6:4-8; Hebrews 10:26 ). Wife or child or life itself must not be preferred to the claims of truth and righteousness, and therefore must not be preferred to Christ, who is truth and righteousness in personal form ( Matthew 10:37-39 , Luke 9:59-60; Luke 14:26-27 ). To call oneself the bond-servant of Jesus Christ ( Romans 1:1 , James 1:1 , 2 Peter 1:1 ) was to assert at once the strongest affection for the wise and gracious One, and the utmost loyalty to God’s holy will as embodied in His Son. The will of God becomes one’s own by affectionate deference to Jesus Christ, to suffer for whom may become a veritable bliss ( Matthew 5:10-12 , Acts 5:41 , 2 Corinthians 4:11 , Philippians 1:29 , 1 Thessalonians 2:14 , Hebrews 10:32-34 ).
5 . Christian Ethics is marked quite as much by promises of assistance as by loftiness of standard. The kindliness of God, fully illustrated in the gift and sacrifice of His Son, is a great incentive to holiness. Men come into the sunshine of Divine favour. Heavenly sympathy is with them in their struggles. The virtues to be acquired ( Matthew 5:1-16 , Galatians 5:22-23 , Colossians 3:12-17 , 2 Peter 1:5-7 , Titus 2:12 ) and the vices to be shunned ( Mark 7:21-22 , Galatians 5:19-21 , Colossians 3:5-9 ) are viewed in connexion with the assurance of efficient aid. There is a wonderful love upon which the aspirant may depend ( John 3:16 , Romans 5:7-8 , 2 Corinthians 5:19 f.). The hearty acceptance of that love is faith, ranked as a virtue and as the parent of virtues ( 2 Peter 1:5 , Romans 5:1-2 , 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 , Hebrews 11:1-40 ). Faith, hope, love, transfigure and supplement the ancient virtues, temperance, courage, wisdom, justice, while around them grow many gentle excellences not recognized before Christ gave them their true rank; and yet it is not by its wealth of moral teaching so much as by its assurance of ability to resist temptation and to attain spiritual manhood that Christianity has gained preeminence. Christ’s miracles are illustrations of His gospel of pardon, regeneration, and added faculties ( Matthew 9:5-6 ). The life set before man was lived by Jesus, who regenerates men by His Spirit, and takes them into union with Himself ( John 3:3; John 3:6; John 8:36; John 15:1-10 , Romans 8:2; Romans 8:9; Romans 8:29 , 1 Corinthians 1:30 , 2 Corinthians 5:17 , Galatians 5:22-23 , Philippians 2:5; Philippians 2:12-13 , Colossians 3:1-4 , James 1:18 , 1 Peter 2:21 , 1 John 2:6 ). The connexion between the Lord and the disciple is permanent ( Matthew 28:20 , John 14:3; John 14:19; John 17:24 , Hebrews 2:11-18 , 1 John 3:1-3 ), and hence the aspiration to become sober, righteous, godly (relation to self, man , and God , Titus 2:12-14 ) receives ample support. Sanctity is not only within the reach of persons at one time despised as moral incapables ( Mark 2:16-17 , Luke 7:47; Luke 7:15; Luke 19:8-9; Luke 23:42; Luk 23:48 , 1 Corinthians 6:11 , Ephesians 2:1-7 ), but every Christian is supposed to be capable, sooner or later, of the most precious forms of goodness ( Matthew 5:1-10 ), for there is no caste ( Colossians 1:28 ). Immortality is promised to the soul, and with it perpetual communion with the Saviour, whose image is to be repeated in every man He saves ( Romans 8:37-39 , 1Co 15:49-58 , 2 Corinthians 5:8 , Philippians 3:8-14 , 1 Thessalonians 4:17 , 1 John 3:2-3 , Revelation 22:4 ).
The objections which have been made to Biblical Ethics cannot be ignored, though the subject can be merely touched in this article. Some passages in the OT have been stigmatized as immoral; some in the NT are said to contain impracticable precepts, and certain important spheres of duty are declared to receive very inadequate treatment.
(i.) As to the OT, it is to be observed that we need not feel guilty of disrespect to inspiration when our moral sense is offended; for the Lord Jesus authorizes the belief that the Mosaic legislation was imperfect ( Matthew 5:21 ff., Mark 10:2-9 ), and both Jeremiah and Ezekiel comment adversely on doctrines which had been accepted on what seemed to be Divine authority (cf. Exodus 20:5 with Jeremiah 31:29-30 and Ezekiel 18:2-3; Ezekiel 18:19-20 ). It is reasonable to admit that if men were to be improved at all there must have been some accommodation to circumstances and states of mind very unlike our own; yet some of the laws are shocking. While such institutions as polygamy and slavery, which could not be at once abolished, were restricted in their range and stripped of some of their worst evils ( Exodus 21:2 ff., Leviticus 25:42-49 , 1 Chronicles 2:35 , Proverbs 17:2 ), there remain many enactments and transactions which must have been always abhorrent to God though His sanction is claimed for them ( Exodus 22:18-20; Exodus 31:14-15; Exodus 35:2-3 , Leviticus 20:27 , Numbers 15:32-36; Numbers 15:31 , Deuteronomy 13:5; Deuteronomy 13:16; Deuteronomy 17:1-5; Deuteronomy 18:20; Deuteronomy 21:10-14 , 2 Samuel 21:1-9 ). Had men always remembered these illustrations of the fact that passions and opinions utterly immoral may seem to be in harmony with God’s will, the cruelties inflicted on heretics in the name of God would not have disgraced the Church’s history; and, indeed, these frightful mistakes of OT days may have been recorded to teach us to be cautious, lest while doing wrong we imagine that God is served ( John 16:2 ). The limited area of the unworthy teaching would be noticed if care were taken to observe that (1) some of the wicked incidents are barely recorded, (2) some are reprobated in the context, (3) some are evidently left without comment because the historian assumes that they will be immediately condemned by the reader. In regard to the rest, it is certain that the Divine seal has been used contrary to the Divine will. It must be added that the very disapproval of the enormities has been made possible by the book which contains the objectionable passages, and that it is grossly unfair to overlook the high tone manifested generally throughout a great and noble literature, and the justice, mercy, and truth commended by Israel’s poets, historians, and prophets, generation after generation.
(ii.) As to the NT, it is alleged that, even if the Sermon on the Mount could be obeyed, obedience would be ruinous. This, however, is directly in the teeth of Christ’s own comment ( Matthew 7:24-27 ), and is due in part to a supposition that every law is for every man. The disciples, having a special task, might be under special orders, just as the Lord Himself gave up all His wealth ( 2 Corinthians 8:9 ) and carried out literally most of the precepts included in His discourse. The paradoxical forms employed should be a sufficient guard against a bald construction of many of the sayings, and should compel us to meditate upon principles that ought to guide all lives. It is the voice of love that we hear, not the voice of legality. The Christian Etnic is supposed to be careless of social institutions, and Christianity is blamed for not preaching at once against slavery, etc. Probably more harm than good would have resulted from political and economic discourses delivered by men who were ostracized. But it is improbable that the Christian mind was sufficiently instructed to advance any new doctrine for the State. Moreover, the supposition that the world was near its close must have diverted attention from social schemes. The alienation from the world was an alienation from wickedness, not indifference to human pain and sorrow. The poverty of believers, the scorn felt for them by the great, the impossibility of attending public functions without countenancing idolatry, the lack of toleration by the State, all tended to keep the Christian distinct from his fellows. Mob and State and cultured class, by their hatred or contempt, compelled Christianity to move on its own lines. At first it was saved from contamination by various kinds of persecution, and the isolation has proved to be a blessing to mankind; for the new life was able to gather its forces and to acquire knowledge of its own powers and mission. The new ideal was protected by its very unpopularity. Meanwhile there was the attempt to live a life of love to God and man, and to treasure Gospels and Epistles that kept securely for a more promising season many sacred seeds destined to grow into trees bearing many kinds of fruit. The doctrine of the Divine Fatherhood implicitly condemns every social and political wrong, while it begets endeavours directed to the promotion of peace among nations, and to the uplifting of the poor and ignorant and depraved of every land into realms of material, intellectual, and moral blessing. There is no kind of good which is absent from the prayers: ‘Thy kingdom come’; ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’
W. J. Henderson.
Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology 
The ancient world did not consider religion to be morally inspiring, creative, or corrective; the reputed behavior of gods and goddesses repelled cultivated minds. Even in Israel the Wisdom Literature (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Job, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach), while never abandoning a religious outlook, made little of worship rituals or the traditional law. Their teaching is prudential: Since God made us, it is common sense to discover what he wants and then to do it ( Proverbs 9:10; Ecclesiastes 12:1,13-14 ). Job does emphasize responsibility to God, and his self-defense (chap. 31) forms a noble ethical creed, but of religious observances he says nothing.
Immoral Religion and Prophetic Protest . The prophets opposed the popular religion and even temple worship, resenting not only the use of images but the total divorce of such "worship" from morality. The Canaanite baals were fertility-spirits whose favor ensured increase of families, flocks, and herds as well as the fruitfulness of fields and vineyards. At their shrines they were "worshiped" with orgies of drunkenness and sexual license (male and female cult prostitution, incest). "A spirit of harlotry" thus gained religious sanction; greed and drunkenness degraded men and women; the people cast off discipline, defiled the land, and "knew not how to blush." Standing pillars (? female figures; "Asherah" = Ishtar, the mother-goddess) and the bull-calf represented deities, and infant sacrifice was frequent. Wizardry, sorcery, witchcraft, necromancy, and soothsaying flourished under the patronage of such religion, and eventually even the Jerusalem temple housed similar rights, together with sun-worship, astrology, and altars to foreign gods ( 1 Kings 12:28-32; 14:23-24; 2 Kings 17:7-18; 21:1-7; Isaiah 8:19; Jeremiah 2:20-25; 3:1-13,23; 5:1; 6:15; Hosea 2:5-8; 4:12,18; 5:3-4; 8:4-6; 13:1-2; Amos 2:7-8; 6:4-6; Micah 5:10-15; 6:6-7 ).
Orthodox worship could also be immoral when unrelated to behavior in society. The prophets called constantly for justice; they condemned perjury and bribery, the selfish luxury of women, the scarcity of upright men, the lack of trust between neighbors through lies, deceitfulness, and fraud, as people preferred lies to truth and nourished "the lie within the soul." Avaricious moneylenders exploiting hardship, wealthy landlords dispossessing small landowners, merchants who oppressed the poor by ruthless competition and unjust balances, those who sold debtors into slavery or prostitution or exacted forced laborall are indicted. So is the prevalent theft, murder, violence, adultery, and constant neglect of widows, orphans, strangers. The ultimate condemnation was that God's people saw no contradiction between the state of their society and the crowded shrines. God hates the feasts, assemblies, offerings, and music. Micah says that only a prophet preaching drink will be welcomed! Isaiah calls Jerusalem "Sodom, " and declares God's utter rejection of her worship. Jeremiah threatens that the temple will become ruinous as Shiloh of old. Malachi pleads for someone to slam the temple doors and let the sacred fire go out ( Isaiah 1:10-15; 29:13-14; Jeremiah 7:1-15; Amos 4:4; 5:21-24; Micah 2:11; Malachi 1:10 ).
Thus both "religious perversion" and religion without ethical fruits are rejected by God. To watch each prophet elaborating this argument is to retrace the discipline that ultimately made Jewish ethics the envy of the ancient world. No prophet argued from psychological or social consequences, nor (until Jeremiah) did any cite divine law. They contended that such practices totally misapprehended YahwehYahweh was not like that. Surrounding nations or primitive Canaanites might offer immoral "worship" to their vicious, characterless deities; to offer it to Yahweh was to insult him.
Appealing simply to his own moral insight Amos demands that Israel turn from her petty gods to seek him who made heaven and earth, day and night; who through repeated recent catastrophes has wrestled with Israel's waywardness, and will yet bring judgment upon all crimes against humanity, wherever committed. If Israel refuses, nothing can save her (1:2-3:2; 4:6-13; 5:6-9,14-15).
Hosea declares repeatedly that Israel does not know her God. Yahweh is no sex-crazed drunkard! Israel's worship has numbed her moral sense, otherwise she would know that God loved her from the beginning as father, provider, and lover, and will not let her go. Sad domestic experience had taught Hosea that love outlasts unfaithfulness (2:8,14-16,19; 3:1; 4:1,6; 5:4,11; 6:3,6; 11:1-4,8-9).
Micah appeals briefly to nature and history to testify what God is like, but rests his argument chiefly on his own indignation at injustice, his inner sense of the kind of world God wants and will achieve if only people listen to their own hearts (6:1-5,8). Isaiah repeats that Judah "does not understand" that God is "the Holy One of Israel" (eleven times in early chapters, twenty-four times in all). He learned that, unforgettably, at his call within the temple. "Holy" implies here perfect purity, freedom from fault, the absolute good. Only worship offered by those worthy to survive as nucleus of a holy nation could ever be acceptable to him (1:3; 5:16,24; 9:2-7; 10:20; 11:1-11).
Jeremiah attained a daring familiarity with God, partly (as a poet-naturalist) from nature, partly (as a trained priest) from Israel's history, but mainly through forty years of struggle, protest, and disappointment, sometimes charging God with deceiving him, sometimes near despair, and so learning to know God (15:10-21; 20:7-18). Thereafter Jeremiah knew it was "not for man to direct his steps": he needed to know the Lord who practices and delights in kindness, justice, and righteousness. Such "knowledge of God, " the essence of religion and life's highest good (9:23-24), included a knowledge of God's law, of the "homing instincts" within human nature, of God's "hand" in one's experience, what God can accomplish, and his true "name" or character. It demands "a heart to know, " and a simple, contended, just, and generous mind. In coming days all will thus know God, without instruction. That will prove the panacea for all evils.
So the prophets argued: as Israel went after false idols and became false ( 2 Kings 17:15 ), so to know and worship the true God would ensure righteousness in individuals and society. They did not add ethics to religious piety; for them religion and morality matured together, under God's guidance, through experience. But it took the exile to make Judah listen.
A Changed Atmosphere . Turning to the Psalter, one finds nothing remotely resembling the indecencies, license, and infanticide of popular preexilic religion. Discussion of ethical problems would be out of place in a worship manual, but a much deeper sense of personal consecration and concern for social righteousness is evident in Judah's praise and prayer.
Many psalms celebrate the glory and majesty of the Creator, revealed in nature. All scenes, all living things exhibit his power and declare his glory. No one who joined in Psalm 8,19 , 29,65 , 89,96 , 104 could imagine that God would take pleasure in sexual promiscuity, drunkenness, infant sacrifice or emotional frenzy. He is high above all human imagination, clothed in majesty, light, and power; worship must be dignified, reverent, and exalted to be worthy of him.
In the psalms God is holy (seven times); so is his name (= character, six times), his temple, mountain, arm, city, heaven, throne, hill, and promise, and God swears by his holiness. Hence holiness alone is fitting for God's house (93:5); anyone who would stand in the holy place must have clean hands, a pure heartthe implications are fully analyzed in 24:3-6,15:1-5. This clearly reflects the teaching of the "Holiness Code" ( Leviticus 17-26 ), with its theme "You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy." The code expounded "holiness" in terms of love to God, the fellow Israelite, and the neighbor, shown in honesty, integrity, and charity. How seriously this demand was taken may be judged from the most searching confession ever penned ( Psalm 51 ), and the moving testimonies to God's forgiveness (103:8-14, five times).
In the psalms cries for righteousness are heard repeatedly, sometimes impatiently, demanding that God will arise, wake up, stir himself to intervene within his world. Even when her prophets were silent, Judah's worship effectively kept alive the hope of a world governed by her righteous king.
With this conception arose a wholly new evaluation of the Divine King's law (mentioned thirty-four times, with varied synonyms almost two hundred times, in AV/KJV), as the rule of life and of society. This idea was to dominate Jewish thought for centuries. Though "the law" had come from Moses, from Joshua to the eve of the exile (Jeremiah, and the historian of 1-2Kings) no prophet appealed to its authority. In the Psalter and afterwards the law becomes Judah's chief source of the knowledge of God.
The King's Law . The ground of the Ten Commandments ( Exodus 20:1-17; Deuteronomy 5:6-21 ) is what God has already done for Israel. The first commandment asserts God's supremacy, forbidding worship of other gods; the second, his spirituality. The third safeguards the oath in court and marketplace; the fourth asserts God's claim on human time, with humanitarian overtones. The fifth protects the order of primitive society; the sixth, seventh, and eighth, the sanctity of life, marriage, and property (on which life might depend). The ninth commandment protects an individual's good name, and the tenth forbids undisciplined desire.
The Book of the Covenant ( Exodus 20:22-23:19 ) presupposes a simple agricultural background; vengeful impulses of primitive society are here moderated by a sense of proportion and justice. The eye-for-eye rule was originally a limitation on unmeasured retribution. The book tolerates slavery but civilizes it; kidnapping slaves deserves death, and so do sorcery, idolatry, and bestiality. Compensation for neglected dangerous animals or buildings depends on circumstances, and restitution for theft is controlled. Seduction involves marriage and dowry. Oppression of widows, orphans, and foreigners and perversion of justice are strictly forbidden. Moderation, equity, and philanthropy, reinforced by religious reverence, are the Book's guiding principles: God defends justiceand is compassionate.
The Book of Deuteronomy stressed humanitarian concerns and an inward devotion to God. God is ever impartial, just, caring for the fatherless, the widow, and the alien: so must his people be. When slaves are freed, provision must be made for their immediate needs. Holiness, and lives worthy of sons of God, are required, from motives of gratitude and love toward God (6:5,20-25). Prostitution, child sacrifice, and divination are suppressed; the right to glean, to receive wages before evening, regular provision for the poor, and reverence for the aged, are all enacted. Animals share in such consideration (22:1-4). All punishments must be strictly limited (25:3). Law and ethics have here coalesced.
Old Testament ethics are admittedly unsystematic, and largely unreflective. Developing in each generation from Israel's growing understanding of God, its insights possess a universality, and authority, conferred by long experience. The moral principles are the conditions of individual and social welfare, not an arbitrary prize for being virtuous but as the natural consequence of obeying the inner laws of well-being implanted by Him who made us.
Intertestamental Influence . In the years before Jesus, foreign occupation narrowed and hardened moral attitudes. God's kingship fed nationalistic hopes of deliverance through Messiah; delight in God's law sank into rigid legalism, fostering self-righteousness or despair. The law was "hedged" with innumerable minor rules, to express the whole duty of man; enthusiasts (Hasidim, later Pharisees) defended it, devoted scribes expounded it, synagogues inculcated it, exaggerated claims held it to be "superior to prophecy, " "light and life of all, " and "eternal." Essenes outdid Pharisees in strictness, discouraging marriage, sharing possessions, and rejecting the temple. Covenanters at Qumran sought "absolute" holiness through monastic discipline, based on moral dualism (light/darkness, truth/falsehood).
The standard was high, in sexual purity, piety, and charity; loyalty to the law did produce saints and martyrs. But legalism became self-serving, claiming merit before God; ethics became casuistry; for the weak, ignorant, poor, or sinful, legalism had no message and no mercy.
The Baptist's manner, his demand for repentance, and his regime of fasting and prayer appealed to the new ascetic tendency ( Matthew 11:16-18; Mark 2:18; Luke 11:1 ), adding prophetic authority. Luke summarizes his practical ethical emphases (3:10-14). The priesthood meanwhile maintained the elaborate ritual of sacrifice and festivals; many common people worshiped at synagogues and sustained a simpler domestic pietyas at Nazareth. Into this confusion of ethical insights and tendencies Jesus stepped.
Jesus' Method . Jesus did not abate the divine law's ideals, but he severely criticized Judaism's legalism as academic ( Luke 11:52 ), cruel (forbidding Sabbath cures, banishing the mentally ill and lepers from society), having wrong priorities, external in judgment, and burdensome ( Matthew 23:23-28; Mark 7:14-23 ). It fostered self-righteousness and contempt for the weak and sinful ( Luke 7:36-50; 15:25-32; 18:9-14; John 8:1-11 ). Jesus did not legislate.
Nor did Jesus cite authorities ( Matthew 7:28-29 ). He appealed to the common moral judgment, very often by questions. Even his assertions often ended with "He that has ears let him hear." Jesus assumes the capacity of the sincere to recognize truth when presented with it. Such consent of the enlightened conscience ensures that obedience is free, spontaneous, approving.
The Kingly Father . As in the Old Testament, so for Jesus ethics derives from a right relationship with God, rendering obedience filial. Yet not all live as sons; some are disobedient, wayward, lost. But God remains Father, and sonship remains available; the Father welcomes their return. In such a context legalism must wither, and the moral life gain new motivation, quality, and tone.
One implication of sonship is likeness: Resemblance proves relationship. The peacemakers, the merciful, those who love their enemies and persecutors, being as impartial and inclusive in their love as God is, those who do good, and lend, hoping for nothing againall are, and are recognized as, children of the father ( Matthew 5:9,44-48; Luke 6:35-36 ). By this simple domestic simile Jesus initiates the supreme Christian ideal of Christlikeness, the imitation of God as beloved children, conformed to the image of his Son ( Romans 8:29; Ephesians 5:1 ).
Second, the language of sonship is relentlessly plural. Such brotherliness forbids insult, and criticism, though brotherly rebuke may be necessary ( Matthew 5:22; 7:1-3; Luke 17:3 ). It requires initiative toward reconciliation and understanding, and ready forgiveness ( Matthew 5:23-24; 18:21,35 ), and, in any need, service as for Christ ( Matthew 25:40 ). At all times the duty of brethren is to strengthen each other ( Luke 22:32 ).
The Fatherly King . In God's kingdom the supreme law must be to love the King with the whole personality ( Matthew 22:36-38 ). The kingdom's second law commands love toward whoever is near enough to be loved, with a transferred self-love that makes our wants the criteria for our neighbors' ( Matthew 7:12; 22:39-40 ). Such love fulfills the whole law. Illustrations of its practical meaning are the cup of (scarce) water, visiting the sick, helping any mugged victim, clothing the naked, befriending the ill-deserving in prison, doing good, lending without interest. The nature of the King determines the law of the kingdom, a kingdom of love ( Matthew 11:2-6; Luke 4:16-21 ).
Yet Christ's example of love includes sternness against evil enjoyed or inflicted; it sets high standards, warns of consequences, exposes hypocrisy, speaks of judgment. It is neither sentimental, soft, nor stupid, but a resolute moral attitude that seeks another's good, whether by gentle or ungentle means.
Jesus was a realist. To his mind, sinfulness was more, and more serious, than trespass against formal laws; it included sins of thought and desire, of neglect, of failure to love, and of sin against light ( Matthew 5:27-28; 6:22-23; 12:35; 23:13-26; 25:41-46; Mark 3:22-30; Luke 10:31-32; 13:6-9 ). Life in God's kingdom, therefore, involves personal resistance, protest, conflict, and suffering, occasioned by loyalty to God in a godless world ( Mark 8:34-38; Luke 22:35-36 ). But the citizen of the kingdom will seek peace with all where possible, never returning evil for evil ( Matthew 5:9,38-40 ).
In all situations the will of the King is to be the ultimate rule of life. And the King's will shall triumph in the end. Human beings may choose whether to live under God's reign or not, but he remains King. In parables ( Matthew 21:33-43; 25:14-46; Luke 12:16-21; 13:6-9; 16:19-31 ) and numerous phrases the truth is made clear that people cannot trifle with God indefinitely. What is good news for the responsive is warning for the obdurate: The Father is King.
Even so cursory a review reveals how rich, varied, realistic, and practical is the ethical teaching of Jesus, and how directly it derives from the perceived character of God and from relationship with him. The good life is lived before God, by his help, in gratitude for his goodness; shorn of these religious roots, Christian values must die and Christian motivation fail. And all is illustrated, unforgettably, by the living example of Jesus, and therefore summed up in his "Follow me."
New Testament Moral Theology . Those who walk, live, and set their minds "according to the Spirit" find freedom, peace, acceptance with God, and constant renewal as sons of God ( Romans 8:5-17 ). This new, Spirit-ruled life is characterized by the absolute lordship of Christ over all attitudes and conduct ( Romans 1:3-4; 10:9-13; 14:7-9; 1Col 6:13-20,; etc. ). Human personality being "open" Godward, as well as toward social forces that corrupt, the soul united to Christ becomes the vehicle of the divine Spirit, by whose guidance and enabling it is made capable of otherwise unattainable virtue ( Romans 8:9-14; 1Col 6:17-20; 2Col 4:7-18). Paul presents a perpetually progressive ideal, developing constantly in its scope of love, its depth of consecration, and in likeness to Christ. Paul does not claim to have attained the goal, only to be straining forward at the ever-upward call of God in Christ, toward the stature of Christ, being by degrees changed "into his likeness" and "conformed to his image" ( Romans 8:29; 2Col 3:18; Ephesians 4:13; Philippians 3:12-14 ).
Human ethics, based on philosophical, sociological or psychological premises, or intuitive responses to isolated "situations, " attain only a consensus of good advice acceptable to people already virtuous in intention. Such moral counsel lacks permanence, authority, and motive power. Biblical ethics, deriving from knowledge and experience of God but forged always in historical real-life situations, problems and needs, reveals unchanging absolutes, inarguable authority, effective motivation, and redemptive power. The Old Testament emphasizes that God's requirements enshrine the secrets of total human welfare; the New Testament points to the man Jesus Christ and his intensely human story as embodiment of the ultimate ideal. Thus biblical ethics prove more truly human in the end, enshrining the Creator's intention for his highest creatures.
R. E. O. White
See also Theology Of Deuteronomy; Jesus Christ; Law; Salvation; Sanctification; Sermon On The Mount; Ten Commandments
Bibliography . W. Barclay, Ethics in a Permissive Society ; P. Carrington, Primitive Christian Catechism ; C. F. H. Henry, Christian Personal Ethics ; W. Lillie, Studies in New Testament Ethics ; J. T. Sanders, Ethics in the New Testament ; E. F. Scott, Ethical Teaching of Jesus ; R. E. O. White, Biblical Ethics .
Holman Bible Dictionary 
Biblical ethics likewise addresses some of the identical questions. While neither Testament has an abstract, comprehensive term or definition which parallels the modern term “ethics,” both the Old Testament and the New Testament are concerned about the manner of life that the Scripture prescribes and approves. The closest Hebrew term in the Old Testament for “ethics,” “virtue” or “ideals” is the word musar , “discipline” or “teaching” ( Proverbs 1:8 ) or even derek , “way or path” of the good and the right. The closest parallel Greek term in the New Testament is anastrophe , “way of life, life-style” (occurring nine times in a good sense with 2 Peter 3:11 being the most significant usage). Of course the Greek terms ethos or ethos appear twelve times in the New Testament ( Luke 1:9; Luke 2:42; Luke 22:39; John 19:40; Acts 6:14; Acts 15:1; Acts 16:21; Acts 21:21; Acts 25:16; Acts 26:3; Acts 28:17 and Hebrews 10:25 ). The plural form appears once in 1 Corinthians 15:33 . It is usually translated “conduct,” “custom,” “manner of life,” or “practice.”
The Biblical Definition of Ethics is Connected With Doctrine The problem with trying to speak about the ethics of the Bible is that ethical contents are not offered in isolation from the doctrine and teaching of the Bible. Therefore, what God is in His character, what He wills in His revelation, defines what is right, good, and ethical. In this sense then, the Bible had a decisive influence in molding ethics in western culture.
Some have seriously questioned whether there is a single ethic throughout the Bible. Their feeling is that there is too much diversity to be found in the wide variety of books and types of literature in the Bible to decide that there is harmony and a basic ethical stance and norm against which all ethical and moral decisions ought to be made. Nevertheless, when following the claims made by the books of the Bible, some conceive their message to be a contribution to the ongoing and continuous story about the character and will of God. This narrative about the character and will of God is the proper basis for answering the questions: “What kind of a person ought I to be?” “How then shall we live so as to do what is right, just, and good?”
As some have pointed out, the search for diversity and pluralism in ethical standards is as much the result of a prior methodological decision as is the search for unity and harmony of standards. One may not say the search for diversity is more scientific and objective than the search for harmony. This fact must be decided on the basis of an internal examination of the biblical materials; not as an external decision foisted over the text.
Three Basic Assumptions Can ethical or moral decisions rest on the Bible, or is this idea absurd and incoherent? Three assumptions illustrate how a contemporary ethicist or moral-living individual may be able to rest his or her decision on the ethical content of the biblical text from a past age. The three are: (1) the Bible's moral statements were meant to be applied to a universal class of peoples, times, and conditions, (2) Scripture's teaching has a consistency about it so that it presents a common front to the same questions in all its parts and to all cultures past and present; (3) the Bible purports to direct our action or behavior when it makes a claim or a demand. In short the Bible can be applied to all people. The Bible is consistent. The Bible seeks to command certain moral behavior.
To take Scripture's universalizability first: every biblical command, whether it appeared in a biblical law code, narrative text, wisdom text, prophetic text, gospel, or epistle was originally addressed to someone, in some place, in some particular situation. Such particulars were not meant to prejudice their usage in other times, places, or persons. Lurking behind each of these specific injunctions can be found a universal principle. From the general principle a person in a different setting can use the Bible to gain direction in a specific decision.
Are our problems, our culture, and our societal patterns so different that even though we can universalize the specific injunctions from Scripture, they have no relevance to our day? Can we assume consistency between cultures and times for this ethic? All that is required here is that the same biblical writer supplied us elsewhere with a whole pattern of ethical thought that has led up to this contextualized and particular injunction. If we may assume that the writer would not change his mind from one moment to the next, we may assume that he would stand by his principle for all such similar situations regardless of times or culture.
Finally, the Bible claims to command mortals made in the image of God. Whether the ethical materials are in the imperative or indicative moods makes little difference. The writers of Scripture intended to do more than offer information; they purported to direct behavior.
Five Basic Characteristics of Biblical Ethics In contrast to philosophical ethics, which tends to be more abstract and human—centered, biblical morality was directly connected with religious faith. Hence immoral men and women were by the same token irreligious men and women, and irreligious persons were also immoral persons ( Psalm 14:1 ).
Biblical ethics are, first of all, personal . The ground of the ethical is the person, character, and declaration of an absolutely holy God. Consequently, individuals are urged, “Ye shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy” ( Leviticus 19:2 ). The moral and ethical commands of the Bible are no less personal in their subject, for they are addressed to individuals who must decide. Thus, “If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands” ( Leviticus 26:3 NIV); or “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put into practice. And the God of peace will be with you” ( Philippians 4:8-9 NIV).
In the second place, the ethics of the Bible are emphatically theistic . They focus on God. To know God was to know how to practice righteousness and justice. Jeremiah 22:15-16 (NIV) taught: “He did what was right and just, so all went well with him. He defended the cause of the poor and the needy, and so all sent well. Is that not what it means to know me? declares the Lord?” Compare Proverbs 3:5-7 .
Most significantly, biblical ethics are deeply concerned with the internal response to morality rather than mere outward acts. “The Lord looketh on the heart” ( 1 Samuel 16:7 ) was the cry repeatedly announced by the prophets ( Isaiah 1:11-18; Jeremiah 7:21-23; Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:6-8 ).
Scripture's ethical motivation was found in a future orientation . The belief in a future resurrection of the body ( Job 19:26-27; Psalm 49:13-15; Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:2-3 ) was reason enough to pause before concluding that each act was limited to the situation in which it occurred and bore no consequences for the future. Peter gave the New Testament summary: “You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming” ( 2 Peter 3:11-12 NIV).
The fifth characteristic of biblical ethics is that they are universal . They embrace the same standard of righteousness for every nation and person on earth. Abraham's question was, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” ( Genesis 18:25 ). The five Gentile cities of the plain “were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly” ( Genesis 13:13 ) and thereby invited the inevitable judgment of God if they did not repent.
Long sections in the Old Testament text are specifically addressed to the nations at large including Isaiah 13-23; Jeremiah 45-51; Ezekiel 25-32; Daniel 2:1; Daniel 7:1; Amos 1-2 , Obadiah; Jonah; and Nahum. The living God revealed in Scripture set the norm for all peoples, nations, and times.
The Organizing Principle: God's Character That which gives wholeness, harmony, and consistency to the morality of the Bible is the character of God. Thus the ethical directions and morality of the Bible were grounded, first of all, in the character and nature of God. What God required was what He Himself was and is. The heart of every moral command was the theme that appeared in Leviticus 18:5-6 ,Leviticus 18:5-6, 18:30; Leviticus 19:2-3 ,Leviticus 19:2-3, 19:4 ,Leviticus 19:4, 19:10 ,Leviticus 19:10, 19:12 ,Leviticus 19:12, 19:14 ,Leviticus 19:14, 19:18 ,Leviticus 19:18, 19:25 , Leviticus 19:31-32 ,Leviticus 19:31-32, 19:34 ,Leviticus 19:34, 19:36-37 , “I am the Lord” or “Ye shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy.” Likewise, Philippians 2:5-8 agreed: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God,;b3 yet he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death—even the death of the cross.”
The character and nature of the holy God found ethical expression in the will and word of God. These words could be divided into moral law and positive law . Moral law expressed His character. The major example is the Ten Commandments ( Exodus 20:1-17; Deuteronomy 5:6-21 ). Another is the holiness code ( Leviticus 18-20 ). Positive law bound men and women for a limited time period because of the authority of the One who spoke them. Positive law claimed the peoples' allegiances only for as long and only in as many situations as God's authority determined when He originally gave that law. Thus the divine word in the Garden of Eden, “you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” ( Genesis 2:17 NIV) or our Lord's, “Untie [the colt]” ( Luke 19:30 ) were intended only for the couple in the garden of Eden or the disciples. They were not intended to be permanent commandments. They do not apply to our times. A study of biblical ethics helps us distinguish between the always valid moral law and the temporary command of positive law.
The moral law is permanent, universal, and equally binding on all men and women in all times. This law is best found in the Decalogue of Moses. Its profundity can be easily grasped in its comprehensiveness of issues and simplicity of expression. A few observations may help in interpreting these Ten Commandments. They are:
 The law has as a prologue. This established the grace of God as seen in the Exodus as the basis for any requirement made of individuals. Ethics is a response to grace in love not a response to demand in fear.
 All moral law is doublesided, leading to a positive act and away from a negative one. It makes no difference whether a law is stated negatively or positively, for every moral act is at one and the same time a refraining from a contrary action when a positive act is adopted.
 Merely omitting or refraining from doing a forbidden thing is not a moral act. Otherwise, sheer inactivity could count as fulfilling a command, but in the moral realm this is just another name for death. Biblical ethics call for positive participation in life.
 When an evil is forbidden in a moral command, its opposite good must be practiced before one can be considered obedient. We must not just refuse to murder, but we must do all in our power to aid the life of our neighbor.
The essence of the Decalogue can be found in three areas:  right relations with God (first command, internal worship of God; second, external worship of God; third, verbal worship of God);  right relations with time (fourth command), and  right relations with society (fifth command, sanctity of the family; sixth, sanctity of life; seventh, sanctity of marriage and sex; eighth, sanctity of property; ninth, sanctity of truth; and tenth, sanctity of motives).
Three other major blocks of legislation may be added to the Decalogue; the Book of the Covenant ( Exodus 20:22-23:33 ); the Law of Holiness ( Leviticus 18-20 ); and the Law of Deuteronomy ( Deuteronomy 12-25 ). These laws serve as illustrations and further amplification of the basic morality found in the Decalogue.
The Law of Holiness sets forth the holiness of God as the central attribute in the whole character of God by which all ethical judgments are to be made. Holiness is the mark of His uniqueness and moral otherness from His creatures. Practically every one of the Ten Commandments is raised in the most amazing nineteenth chapter of Leviticus.
The Content of Biblical Ethics Biblical ethics is based on the complete revelation of the Bible. The Decalogue and its expansions in the three other basic law codes join the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 and the Sermon on the Plain in Luke 6:17-49 as the foundational texts of the Bible's teaching in the ethical and moral realm. All other biblical texts—the narratives of wrongdoing, the collection of Proverbs, the personal requests of letters—all contribute to our knowledge of biblical ethics. The Bible does not offer a list from which we pick and choose. It hammers home a life-style and calls us to follow.
Several examples of the content of biblical ethics may help to better understand how the character of God, especially of His holiness, sets the norm for all moral decision-making.
Honor or respect for one's parents was one of the first applications of what holiness entailed according to Leviticus 19:1-3 . This should come as no surprise, for one of the first ordinances God gave in Genesis 2:23-24 set forth the monogamous relationship as the foundation and cornerstone of the family.
Husband and wife were to be equals before God. The wife was not a mere possession, chattel, or solely a childbearer. She was not only “from the Lord” ( Proverbs 19:14 ) and her husband's “crown” ( Proverbs 12:4 ), but she also was “a power equal to” him (the word “helper” ( Genesis 2:18 NIV) is better translated “strength, power”). The admonition to honor parents was to be no excuse to claim no responsibility to help the poor, the orphan, and the widow ( Leviticus 25:35; Deuteronomy 15:7-11; Job 29:12-16; Job 31:16-22; Isaiah 58:1; Amos 4:1-2; Amos 5:12 ). The oppressed were to find relief from the people of God and those in authority.
Similarly, human life was to be regarded as so sacred that premeditated murder carried with it the penalty of capital punishment in order to show respect for the smitten victim's being made in the image of God ( Genesis 9:5-6 ). Thus the life of all persons, whether still unborn and in the womb ( Exodus 21:22-25; Psalm 139:13-6 ) or those who were citizens of a conquered country ( Isaiah 10:1; Habakkuk 3:1 ), were of infinite value to God.
Human sexuality was a gift from God. It was not a curse, nor an invention of the devil. It was made for the marriage relationship and meant for enjoyment ( Proverbs 5:15-21 ), not just procreation. Fornication was forbidden ( 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 ). Sexual aberrations, such as homosexuality ( Leviticus 18:22; Leviticus 20:13; Deuteronomy 23:17 ) or bestiality ( Exodus 22:19; Leviticus 18:23-30; Leviticus 20:1 : 15-16; Deuteronomy 27:21 ) were repulsive to the holiness of God and thus condemned.
Finally, commands about property, wealth, possessions, and concern for the truth set new norms. These norms went against the universal human propensity for greed, for ranking things above persons, and for preferring the lie as an alternative to the truth. No matter how many new issues were faced in ethical discourse, the bottom line remained where the last commandment had laid it: the motives and intentions of the heart. This is why holiness in the ethical realm began with the “fear of the Lord” ( Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 9:10; Proverbs 15:33 ).
The greatest summary of ethical instruction was given by our Lord in Matthew 22:37-39 : it was to love God and to love one's neighbor. There also was the Golden Rule of Matthew 7:12 . The best manifestation of this love was a willingness to forgive others ( Matthew 6:12-15; Matthew 18:21-35; Luke 12:13-34 ).
The New Testament, like the Old, included social ethics and one's duty to the state as part of its teaching. Since God's kingdom was at work in the world, it was necessary that salt and light also be present as well in holy living.
While both Testaments shared the same stance on issues such as marriage and divorce, the New often explicitly adopted different sanctions. Thus, church discipline was recommended in the case of incest in 1 Corinthians 5:1 rather than stoning.
The main difference between the two Testaments is that the New Testament sets forth Jesus as the new Example of uncompromising obedience to the will and law of God. He came not to abolish the Old, but to fulfill it. The New Testament is replete with exhortations to live by the words and to walk in the way set forth by Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah ( 1 Corinthians 11:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 1 Peter 2:21-25 ).
Some of the motivators to live ethical and moral lives carry over from the previous Testament, but to these are added: the nearness of God's kingdom ( Mark 1:15 ); gratitude for God's grace in Christ ( Romans 5:8 ); and the accomplished redemption, atonement, and resurrection of Jesus Christ ( 1 Corinthians 15:20-21 ). Like the Old Testament, love is a strong motivator; however, love does not take the place of law. Love is not itself the law; it is a “how” word, but it will never tell us “what” we are to do. Love is a fulfillment of the law ( Romans 13:9 ) because it constrains us to comply with what the law teaches. Thus, love creates an affinity with and an affection for the object of its love. It gives willing and cheerful obedience rather than coerced and forced compliance.
Finally, the content of biblical ethics is not only personal, but it is wide-ranging. The letters of Paul and Peter list a wide range of ethical duties; toward one's neighbors, respect for the civil government, and its tasks, the spiritual significance to work, the stewardship of possessions and wealth, and much else.
The ethic which Scripture demands and approves has the holiness of the Godhead as its standard and fountainhead, love to God as its impelling motivation, the law of God as found in the Decalogue and Sermon on the Mount as its directing principle, and the glory of God as its governing aim.
Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.
Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament 
It is proposed in the present article not to discuss the vast subject of ethics in general, but to attempt to ascertain what were the most striking points in which the ethical ideas of the Christiana of the Apostolic Age differed from those of earlier speculators on the subject.
1. Sources of information .-All our first-hand information is contained in the writings of the NT and of the Apostolic Fathers. Indirectly the works of later Christian authors, who treated the subject more systematically, may throw some light by way of inference on the conceptions of the Apostolic Age: for instance, if the treatment of the cardinal virtues by St. Augustine and others shows a marked difference from the treatment found in pre-Christian writers, it may perhaps be rightly inferred that the difference is due to ideas which already prevailed in the first generation of Christians. But inferences of this sort are precarious, for it is hardly possible to ascertain accurately how far the other influences which contributed to the thought of the later writers were operative in the earliest age; and in any case it is probable that later writings would not add anything of great importance to the general outline, which is all that is being attempted here. Attention will therefore be confined to the contemporary documents. And with respect to these, critical questions may be ignored. The accuracy of the historical narrative is not in question, and whatever may be the authorship or the precise date of the documents reviewed, they are all sufficiently early to reflect ethical ideas which belong to the Apostolic Age, and not those which belong to a later period.
2. General characteristics of ethical thought
(1) Absence of systematic treatment .-Ethical questions are constantly touched upon in the NT, but always more or less in connexion with particular cases as they arise, and never in connexion with a complete and thought-out system. Here there is a striking contrast with Greek philosophy. The philosophers tried to find a rational basis for human life in all its relations. In ethics they discussed the question of the supreme good-whether it was knowledge, or pleasure, or virtue; they classified the virtues, and discussed in the fullest manner their various manifestations. There is nothing of this sort in the NT. The morality of the Jews, again, was very different from that of the Greeks, fur the Jews took little interest in purely philosophical problems; but they also had a system, and a very elaborate one, of law and of ceremonial observance, with which their morality was closely bound up. Although the Christians inherited so much from the Jews, this system, after being, as it were, raised to its highest power in the Sermon on the Mount, was definitely set aside in the Apostolic Age. And in the place of a system we find an overpowering interest in certain historical facts. The Synoptic Gospels are occupied with a fragmentary narrative of the life of Christ, in which a good deal of moral teaching is contained. But it is such as arises incidentally from the facts recorded in the narrative, and it is not presented as part of a scheme of ethics. In the Fourth Gospel there is something more nearly resembling systematic moral discussion, but even here the discourses arise out of a historical framework, and the prevailing interest is not ethical but spiritual and mystical. The Acts contains little but narrative, and the teaching recorded in it centres almost monotonously around facts. In the Epistles ethical questions are constantly dealt with, but the problems are practical, and arise out of the circumstances of the time. This is not to say that in these writings there is no new point of view, but that ethics is nowhere treated in a complete and systematic way, and that there appears to be no consciousness on the part of the writers that they are in possession of a new ethical theory or philosophy. The difference, therefore, between pre-Christian and Christian ethics does not consist in a new theory or system. The subject was treated in the Apostolic Age from the practical point of view.
(2) The moral ideal .-A new element is, however, introduced into ethics by that very concentration upon a single historical life which has been noted above. The ideal man had figured largely in earlier ethical systems, but the ideal man of philosophy had been entirely a creation of the imagination, and his actual existence never seems to have been thought of as a practical possibility. Now, however, an actual human life is put forward as a model of perfection, and it is assumed without discussion that all ethical questions, as they may happen to arise, may be, and must be, tested by this.
(3) The new life .-There is, moreover, in the consciousness of the Apostolic Age something more potent than belief in a historical example. There is a sense which pervades every writing of this time that a new force has come into existence. It is not necessary to insist upon the prominence in early Christian teaching of the belief in the Resurrection, The continued life and activity of the Person who is the centre of all their thought were the greatest of all realities to the early Christians. With it was combined the belief in the continual indwelling and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. And this seems to explain the apparent indifference to ethical theory which has been noted. For to the early Christians ‘outward morality is the necessary expression of a life already infused into the soul’ (Strong, Christian Ethics , p. 69). It is in this respect that the Christian conception presents the most marked contrast to pre-Christian thought, There was a note of hopelessness in the moral speculation of the Greeks, Even a high ideal was a thing regarded as practically out of reach for the mass of mankind. Plato looked upon the ideal State as a necessary condition for the exercise of the highest virtue, and its conception was a wonderful effort of the philosophical imagination; but it was not considered possible. Even the apparently practical conceptions of Aristotle require a complete reconstruction of society. The Stoic philosophers abandoned this dream, and could suggest nothing better than the withdrawal of the wise man from all ordinary human interests. The Neo-Platonist went further, and sought complete severance from the world of sense, Jewish thought was on different lines, but there was an even keener sense of sin and failure, although this was redeemed from despair by the hope of a Messianic Age which would redress all the evils of the existing order. Above all there was no sufficient solution, and among the Greeks little attempt at a solution, of the problem of how the human will was to be sufficiently strengthened to do its part in the realization of any ideal. In the writings of the Apostolic Age, on the other hand, there is found not only a belief in a perfect ideal historically realized, but also a belief in an indwelling power sufficient to restore all that is weak and depraved in the human will.
(4) The evangelical virtues .-In the NT there is no regular discussion of the nature of virtue, and no formal classification of virtues. The Greek philosophers, while they differed in their views of that constituted the chief good, were agreed in accepting what are known as the four cardinal virtues-prudence, temperance, fortitude, and justice-as the basis of their classification. This division, from the time of Plato onwards (and he appears to assume it as familiar), is generally accepted as exhaustive, and other virtues are made to fall under these heads. But although this classification must have been familiar to a large number of the early Christians, and although it had been adopted in the Book of Wisdom (8:7), it is not mentioned in the NT. The cardinal virtues reappeared in Christian literature from Origen onwards, and were exhaustively treated by Ambrose, Augustine, Gregory, and mediaeval writers, but this kind of discussion does not make its appearance in the Apostolic Age. Such lists of virtues us that which occurs in Galatians 5:22 f. are clearly not intended to be exhaustive or scientific, and the nearest approach to a system of virtues is made by St. Paul in 1 Cor., where he expounds what became known as the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and love. These three are also closely associated in Romans 5:1-5, 1 Thessalonians 1:2 f., and Colossians 1:3-5; and two other NT writers ( Hebrews 10:22-24 and 1 Peter 1:21 f.) mention them in conjunction in a suggestive manner. It seems that they were generally recognized as moral or spiritual states characteristic of the Christian life. And the reason for this appears to be that they are regarded as the means by which the Christian is brought into personal relation with the historical facts, and with the new life brought by them into the world, which have been spoken of above as the point on which the Christians of the first age centred their attention. The insistence on these spiritual virtues brings out two distinct characteristics of the ethical thought of the Apostolic Age, which are nowhere defined or discussed in the NT, but which nevertheless appear to be consistently implied. These characteristics are a new doctrine of the end of man, and consequently a new criterion of good and evil, and a new view of human nature.
( a ) These three virtues all take a man outside himself, and make it impossible for him to be merely self-regarding. They bring him into close relation not only with his fellow-men but with God. So union with God becomes the highest end of man. This union, moreover, is not absorption: whatever may have been the case of some later Christian mystics, the most mystical of the early writers, St. Paul and St. John, never contemplate anything but a conscious union with God, in which the whole individuality of man is preserved. ‘From first to last the Christian idea is social, and involves the conscious communion between man and man, between man and God. And no state of things in which the individual consciousness disappears will satisfy this demand ‘(Strong, op. cit. p. 88). Faith, hope, and love all relate to a spiritual region above and beyond this present life, but the existing world is not excluded from it. The Kingdom of God, which occupies as large a place in the thought of the Apostolic Age, is regarded as future and as transcendental, but it is also regarded as having come already, so far as the rule of Christ has been made effective in this life. Thus a new standard for moral judgments is set up those actions and events are good which advance the coming of the Kingdom, and those are evil which impede it.
( b ) Further, the evangelical virtues assume a unity in human nature which pre-Christian systems of thought failed to recognize. Greek thought either regarded human nature as unfallen, or it adopted more or less an Oriental view of evil as immanent in matter. When evil could not be ignored it might be ascribed either to ignorance or to the imprisonment of the soul in an alien environment. In neither ease could human nature be regarded as a whole which in its own proper being is harmonious. The body and the emotions which are closely connected with it were looked upon as things which must either be kept in strict subjection to the intellect, or, as far as possible, be got rid of altogether. In early Christian thought, on the other hand, hope and love are mainly emotional, and faith is by no means exclusively intellectual. In St. Paul’s use of the term it includes a strong element of emotion-it ‘worketh through love’ ( Galatians 5:6); and it is almost more an act of the will than of the intellect. And although asceticism played a great part in some departments of later Christian thought, in the Apostolic Age there can be no doubt of the importance assigned to the body. The conspicuous Christian belief in the resurrection of the body assumes a very different point of view from that of Oriental or oven of Greek philosophy. It is clear that the first generation of Christians regarded human nature as fallen indeed, but as capable in all its parts of restoration, and they believed that none of its parts could be left out from the salvation of the whole.
(5) The conception of sin .-Speaking generally, it may be said that the non-Christian view of sin regards it as natural, and that the Christian view regards it as unnatural. This is, however, a broad generalization, and requires further definition. No system of ethical thought can altogether ignore the fact of sin, though it is sometimes minimized. But there are wide differences in the way in which it is regarded. In pre-Christian thought it was often almost Identified with ignorance. It was assumed that a man cannot sin willingly, because no man desires evil for himself. Virtue is therefore knowledge, and the possibility of knowing what is right and doing what is wrong need not be considered. This was the teaching of a large section of Greek philosophy. Again, wherever Oriental ideas had influence, the seat of evil was thought to be in matter. Sometimes the strife between good and evil was explained as a contest between two rival and evenly-balanced powers. Sometimes a good deity was conceived as acting upon an intractable material. The practical conclusion was usually some form of asceticism-an attempt to be quit of the body and all that it implied; and this asceticism, by a process easy to be understood, not infrequently led to licence. These tendencies often make their appearance in Church history, and traces of them are to be found in the writings of the NT, but during the Apostolic Age the dangers of Gnosticism and Antinomianism were but rudimentary. In modern times the view of evil which regards it as undeveloped good, or as the survival of instincts that are no longer necessary or beneficial, has some points in common with the old dualisms. The common feature of all these views is that they regard evil as more or less inevitable and according to nature. It would not be true to say that they altogether disregard the human will, or deny human responsibility, but they treat the body rather than the will as the seat of evil, and they tend to look upon evil as, upon the whole, natural and necessary. The Christian view of sin, as it appears in the writings of the Apostolic Age, is in the sharpest contrast to this. It is the Jewish view, carried to its natural conclusion, and its chief characteristics may be set down under three heads.
( a ) First, the freedom of the will is not considered from the philosophical point of view at all. The metaphysical difficulties are not even touched upon, nor is any consciousness shown of their existence. But the responsibility of man is always assumed, Nor is it for his actions alone that he is responsible. The Sermon on the Mount brings home to him responsibility for every thought, and for his whole attitude towards God. And in doing so it brings to its natural conclusion the course of ethical thought among the Jews. If, however, the root of sin is in the will, it follows that it is not in matter, or in the body, or in anything distinct from the will of man. The whole universe is good, because it is created by God, and sin consists in the wilful misuse of things naturally good. Asceticism therefore, except in the sense of such training as may help to restore the will to a healthy condition, is excluded.
( b ) Secondly, the idea of the holiness of God, as forming a test of human action and a condemnation of human shortcomings, is another conception inherited from Judaism. Early Jewish ideas about God are anthropomorphic, but the anthropomorphism is of a very different kind from that of the Greeks, The deities of Greek mythology who aroused the contemptuous disgust of Plato were constructed out of human experience with all the evil and good qualities of actual men emphasized and heightened. To the Jew God is an ideal, the source of the Moral Law, rebellion against which is sin. So in the Sermon on the Mount the perfection of God is held up as the ideal for human perfection, and St. Paul makes the unity of God the ground for belief in the unity of the Church.
( c ) Thirdly, sin was regarded as a thing which affects the race, and not only individuals. The beliefs of the Apostolic Age with regard to Christ’s redemptive work imply that there is a taint in the race, and that human nature itself, and not only individual men, has to be restored to communion with God, and requires such a release from sin as will make communion with God possible. Some practical results of this belief in the solidarity of mankind are conspicuous in early Christian writings. One is the exercise of discipline. It was left that the actions and character of individuals compromised and affected the whole body, and that they could not therefore be left to themselves. The injury done by the rebellion of one injured and imperilled the whole community. Both, for his own sake and for the sake of the Church a corporate censure was required, extending if necessary to the cutting off of the offending member (1 Corinthians 5, 2 Corinthians 2, Matthew 18:15-20, etc.). Another result of the belief in solidarity is the emphasis laid upon social virtues in connexion with the corporate character of the Church ( e.g. Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12-14, Galatians 5, etc.). It partly accounts for that special prominence of humility in Christian ethics which has been so often commented on from different points of view, for humility is regarded not only as a duty enforced by the example of Christ, but also as the practical means for preserving the unity and harmonious working of the body ( Philippians 2:3-5, etc.).
3. Conclusion .-Ethics in the Apostolic Age did not consist in a re-statement of old experience or in a system of purely ethical theory, but in the recognition and acceptance in the sphere of conduct of the practical consequences of what was believed to be an entirely new experience of spiritual facts.
Literature.-A. Neander, ‘Verhältniss der hellen. Ethik zur christlichen,’ in Wissenschaftliche Abhandlungen , 1851, also Geschichte der christl. Ethik (═ Theolog. Vorlesungen , v. ); W. Gass, Geschichte der christl. Ethik , 1881; C. E. Luthardt, Geschichte der christl. Ethik , 1888: H. Martensen, Christian Ethics , Eng. translation, ( General ) 1885, ( Individual ) 1881, ( social ) 1882; J. R. Illingworth, Christian Character , 1904; T. B. Strong, Christian Ethics , 1896 (to which this article is especially indebted); H. H. Scullard, Early Christian Ethics , 1907; T. v. Haering, The Ethics of Christian Life , Eng. translation2, 1909.
J. H. Maude.
Bridgeway Bible Dictionary 
Ethics is a broad subject whose particular concern is with right conduct in human behaviour. This includes every aspect of people’s conduct, whether it involves others or not. People are answerable to God for all that they do ( Hebrews 4:13; Revelation 20:12).
From the beginning people had within them some knowledge of right and wrong. God gave them a revelation of the standards of conduct he required in human relationships, and each individual’s conscience judged that person according to those standards. This was so even when the person had rejected the knowledge of God ( Romans 1:21-23; Romans 2:14-15; cf. Matthew 7:11; see Conscience ; Revelation ).
When God took the people of Israel into a covenant relationship with himself, he gave them a law-code to regulate their national life. This written code was an application of the unwritten principles which God had placed within the human heart from the beginning but which people had neglected. These principles were based on the truth that the moral conduct of people should be a reflection of the moral character of God, in whose image they were made ( Exodus 19:6; Leviticus 11:44-45; Leviticus 19:2; Matthew 19:17; cf. Ephesians 4:24; see Law ).
The ethics of this Israelite law-code concerned a person’s relationships with people and with God. In both cases the motive for right conduct was to be genuine love ( Leviticus 19:17-18; Deuteronomy 6:3-7). Right conduct concerned all personal behaviour (e.g. Exodus 20:12; Exodus 22:21-27; Exodus 23:1-8; Leviticus 18:6; Leviticus 18:19; Leviticus 18:22), yet it was more than merely a personal matter. People lived not in isolation but as part of a community, and God wanted the community as a whole to follow his standards ( Exodus 23:10-12; Exodus 23:17; Exodus 32:7-10; Leviticus 19:9-10; Deuteronomy 20:10-20).
In giving his law to Israel at Mt Sinai, God’s purpose was not that as Israelites kept it they could earn the right to become his people. Rather he gave the law to a nation that he had already made his people ( Exodus 4:22; Exodus 6:6-8; Exodus 24:3-4). Each person was a guilty sinner and received salvation only through coming in faith and repentance to God ( Exodus 32:33; Exodus 34:6-7; Psalms 51:1-4; Isaiah 1:16-20). Salvation was a gift of God’s grace, not a reward for keeping moral laws; though the person who received that salvation loved God’s law all the more and had an increased desire to keep it ( Psalms 119:14-16; Psalms 119:44-48; Romans 9:31-32; Galatians 3:10; Galatians 3:18).
Likewise in the new era introduced through Jesus Christ, no one is saved through keeping moral instructions, whether those instructions come from the law of Moses, the teachings of Jesus or the writings of the early Christian leaders. Salvation is by God’s grace, and repentant sinners receive it by faith. But again, having received it they should be diligent to produce good works ( Ephesians 2:8-10; Titus 2:11-12; James 2:18; James 2:26; 1 Peter 2:9-12; see Good Works ).
Genuine love is once again the source of right behaviour. As new people indwelt by the Spirit of God, Christians can now produce the standard of righteousness that the law aimed at but could not itself produce ( Romans 8:1-4; Romans 13:8-10; 2 Corinthians 5:17; 1 John 2:3-6; see Sanctification ).
Ethical teachings of Jesus
The foundation of Christian ethics is not what men and women themselves might choose to do, but what God through Christ has already done. Jesus was not primarily a teacher of ethics who showed people how to live a better life, but a Saviour who died and rose again to give repentant sinners an entirely new life ( Romans 6:1-11; 2 Corinthians 5:15; 2 Corinthians 5:17; 1 Peter 1:18-23; 1 Peter 4:1). God has made believers his children, and they must now show this to be true in practice. Because God has acted in a certain way, Christians must act in a certain way ( 1 Corinthians 6:20; Ephesians 4:1; Ephesians 5:1; 1 John 3:9-10; 1 John 4:7).
Jesus’ teaching must therefore be understood in relation to his mission. He was not a social reformer, but the Saviour-Messiah who brought the kingdom of God into the world. He did not draw up a code of ethics, but urged people to humble themselves and enter the kingdom of God. He knew that people would have worthwhile change in their behaviour only when they were truly changed within ( Matthew 4:23; Matthew 5:3; Matthew 5:21-22; Matthew 12:28; Matthew 15:19-20; Matthew 18:4; Matthew 19:23; see Kingdom Of God ).
In dealing with standards of human behaviour, Jesus did not introduce any new set of values. He referred people back to the values which were already clearly set out in the Old Testament but which people had either ignored or distorted ( Matthew 5:17; Matthew 5:43-44; Matthew 19:8-9; Matthew 22:37-40; see Sermon On The Mount ).
Neither did Jesus present his teaching in the form of regulations applicable to all people in all circumstances, as if it were the law-code of a civil government. His requirement, for example, that people sell their houses or leave their families applied not in all cases, but only in those where people had put their interests before God’s ( Matthew 19:16-22; Luke 9:57-62). But the principle on which that particular instruction was based (namely, that discipleship involves sacrifice) applies to everyone ( Matthew 10:34-39; Matthew 16:24-26).
If Jesus had set out a law-code, its regulations would have been suited to the way of life in first century Palestine, but unsuited to other cultures and eras. Instead, as each occasion arose, Jesus emphasized whatever aspect of God’s truth was related to the circumstances (e.g. Matthew 22:15-22; Mark 12:38-40; Luke 14:8-11). He also left behind with his followers the gift of the Holy Spirit who, generation after generation, helps Christians to interpret his words and apply their meaning. The teaching of Jesus never goes out of date ( John 14:15-17; John 16:13-15).
Motives and behaviour
Because God’s work of redemption through Christ is the basis of Christian ethics, the relationship that believers have with Christ will largely determine their behaviour. Their understanding of Christian doctrine will enlighten them concerning Christian conduct. Their appreciation of what Christ has done will deepen their love for him and give them the desire to please him. They will want to obey his teachings ( John 14:15; John 15:4; John 15:10; 2 Corinthians 8:9; 1 Thessalonians 2:4; 1 Timothy 1:5; 1 Timothy 6:3; Hebrews 13:21).
This obedience is not the fearful keeping of stern demands, but the joyful response to Christ’s love ( 1 John 2:1-5; 1 John 4:10-12; 1 John 5:3; cf. Matthew 11:29-30; see Obedience ). It is not bondage to a new set of laws, but a freedom to produce the character that no set of laws can ever produce ( Romans 8:2; Galatians 5:1; Galatians 5:13; Colossians 2:20-23; see Freedom ).
The fact that Christian obedience is free from legalism is no excuse for moral laziness. Christians have a duty to be obedient ( Romans 6:16; 1 Corinthians 9:21; 2 Corinthians 10:5; 1 Peter 1:14-16). They need to exercise constant self-discipline ( 1 Corinthians 9:24-27), and they will be able to do this through the work of Christ’s Spirit within them ( Galatians 5:22-23; see Self-Discipline The work of the Holy Spirit helps believers produce that Christian character which is the goal of Christian ethics. The motivating force behind the conduct of Christians is their desire to be like Christ and so bring glory to God ( Romans 13:14; 1 Corinthians 10:31; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Colossians 3:9-10; Colossians 3:17; cf. Matthew 5:48).
Being like Christ does not mean that Christians in different cultures and eras must try to copy the actions of the Messiah who lived in first century Palestine. It means rather that they have to produce the sort of character Jesus displayed and be as faithful in their callings as Jesus was in his ( John 13:15; John 15:12; Ephesians 4:24; Ephesians 5:1-2; 1 Peter 2:21; 1 John 2:6). Christians know that in some bodily way they are to become like Christ at his return, and this should encourage them to become more like him in moral character now ( Philippians 3:17-21; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; Titus 2:11-14; 1 John 3:2-3).
Christians live with the sure expectation that a better life awaits them in the heavenly kingdom. This, however, is no reason to try to escape the problems of the present life ( 1 Corinthians 15:54; 1 Corinthians 15:58; Philippians 1:23-24; 2 Timothy 2:10-15). On the contrary, the affairs of the present life help develop personal character and communion with God, which give meaning to life now and will last through death into the age to come ( 1 Corinthians 13:8-13; 1 Peter 1:3-9).
The awareness of future judgment creates for Christians both expectancy and caution. This is not because they want rewards or fear punishment, but because the day of judgment is the climax of the present life and the beginning of the new ( Matthew 25:14-30; 1 Corinthians 3:12-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 2 Timothy 4:6-8; see Judgment ; Punishment ; Reward ).
Applying Christian ethics to society
Christian ethical teaching is aimed, first of all, not at making society Christian, but at making Christians more Christlike. Their character and behaviour must reflect their new life in Christ ( Romans 6:4; Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 2:6-7). But Christian ethics are not a purely private affair. Christians are part of a society where Christ has placed them as his representatives, and they must apply their Christian values to the affairs of that society ( Matthew 5:13-16; John 17:15-18; see Witness ; World ).
The immediate community in which Christians must give expression to their standards is the family ( Ephesians 5:22-33; Ephesians 6:1-4; see Family ; Marriage ). Beyond the family is the larger community where they live and work, and where they inevitably meet conduct that is contrary to their Christian understanding of righteousness, truth and justice ( Ephesians 6:5-9; see Justice ; WORK). Over all is the civil government. Although Christian faith does not in itself make people experts on economics, politics or sociology, it does teach them moral values by which they can assess a government’s actions ( Romans 13:1-7; see Government ).
Since the Creator knows what is best for his creatures, Christian ethics are the best for people everywhere. Christians should therefore do all they can to promote God’s standards. A society will benefit if its laws are based on God’s standards ( Exodus 20:13-17; Deuteronomy 5:29; Romans 13:8-10), though Christians should realize that it is not possible to enforce all those standards by law. Civil laws can deal with actions that have social consequences, but they cannot deal with the attitudes that cause those actions (cf. Matthew 5:21-22; Ephesians 4:25-32).
In addition, the ethical standards of a society may be so poor that laws have to be less than ideal in order to control and regulate an unsatisfactory state of affairs (e.g. Exodus 21:1-11; Deuteronomy 24:1-4; see Divorce ; SLAVERY). This does not mean that Christians may lower their moral standards to the level of the civil law; for something that is legal according to government-made laws may still be morally wrong (cf. Matthew 19:7-9). Nor does it mean (as the system known as Situation Ethics claims) that nothing is absolutely right or wrong, and that in certain situations Christians are free to disobey God’s moral instructions, provided they feel they are acting out of love to others. The more knowledge Christians have of God’s law, the more he holds them responsible to obey it ( Luke 12:48; John 9:41; James 2:10-12; cf. Amos 3:2).
Webster's Dictionary 
(n.) The science of human duty; the body of rules of duty drawn from this science; a particular system of principles and rules concerting duty, whether true or false; rules of practice in respect to a single class of human actions; as, political or social ethics; medical ethics.
Charles Buck Theological Dictionary 
The doctrine of manners, or the science of moral philosophy. the word is formed from mores, "manners, " by reason the scope or object thereof is to form the manners.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia 
I. Nature and Function of Ethics
1. Rise of Ethics
2. Ethics as a Science
3. A N ormative Science
4. Relation to Cognate Sciences
(1) Ethics and Metaphysics
(2) Ethics and Psychology
5. Relation of Christian Ethics to Moral Philosophy
(1) Not an Opposition
(2) Philosophical Postulates
6. Relation of Christian Ethics to Dogmatics
(1) The Connection
(2) The Distinction
(3) Theological Postulates
(a) The Christian Idea of God
(b) The Christian Doctrine of Sin
(c) The Responsibility of Man
II. Historical Sketch of Ethics
1. Greek Philosophy
(5) Stoics and Epicureans
(7) Stoicism and Paul
Descartes and Spinoza
4. English Moralists
6. Evolutionary Ethics
8. German Idealists
(2) Watchwords: Pleasure and Duty
III. Principles and Characteristics of Biblical Ethics
1. Ethics of the Old Testament
(1) Religious Characteristics of Hebrew Ethics
(a) The Decalogue
(b) Civil Laws
(c) Ceremonial Laws
(e) Books of Wisdom
(f) Apocryphal Books
(2) Limitations of Old Testament Ethics
(a) As to Intent
(b) As to Extent
2. Outline of New Testament Ethics
(1) Ethics of Jesus and Paul
(3) Inwardness of Motive
(4) Ultimate End
3. The Ethical Ideal
(3) Brotherhood and Unity of Man
4. The Dynamic Power of the New Life
(1) The Dynamic on Its Divine Side
(2) The Dynamic on Its Human Side
5. Virtues, Duties and Spheres of the New Life
(1) The Virtues
(a) The Heroic Virtues
(b) The Amiable Virtues
(c) The Theological Virtues
(2) The Duties
(a) Duties toward Self
(b) Duties in Relation to Others
(c) Duties in Relation to God
(3) Spheres and Relationships
Absoluteness, Inwardness and Universality
In this article, which proposes to be of a general and introductory character, we shall first deal with the nature and function of ethics generally, showing its difference from and relation to other cognate branches of inquiry. Secondly, we shall sketch briefly the history of ethics in so far as the various stages of its development bear upon and prepare the way for Christian ethics, indicating also the subsequent course of ethical speculation. Thirdly, we shall give some account of Biblical ethics ; treating first of the main moral ideas contained in the Old Testament, and enumerating, secondly, the general principles and leading characteristics which underlie the ethical teaching of the New Testament.
I. Nature and Function of Ethics
Ethics is that branch of philosophy which is concerned with human character and conduct. It deals with man, not so much as a subject of knowledge, as a source of action. It has to do with life or personality in its inward dispositions, outward manifestations and social relations. It was Aristotle who first gave to this study its name and systematic form. According to the Greek signification of the term, it is the science of customs (ἠθικά , ēthiká , from ἦθος , ḗthos , "custom," "habit," "disposition"). But inasmuch as the words "custom" and "habit" seem to refer only to outward manners or usages, the mere etymology would limit the nature of the inquiry. The same limitation exists in the Latin designation, "moral," since mores concerns primarily manners.
1. Rise of Ethics
Men live before they reflect, and act before they examine the grounds of action. So long as there is a congruity between the habits of an individual or a people and the practical requirements of life, ethical questions do not occur. It is only when difficulties arise and new problems appear as to right and duty in which the existing customs of life offer no solution, that doubt awakes, and with doubt reflection upon the actual morality which governs life. It is when men begin to call in question their past usages and institutions and to read-just their attitude to old traditions and new interests that ethics appears. Ethics is not morality but reflection upon morality. When, therefore, Aristotle, following Socrates and Plato, employed the term, he had in view not merely a description of the outward life of man, but rather the sources of action and the objects as ends which ought to guide him in the proper conduct of life. According to the best usage the names Moral Philosophy and Ethics are equivalent and mean generally the rational explanation of our nature, actions and relations as moral and responsible beings. Ethics therefore may be defined as the systematic study of human character, and its function is to show how human life must be fashioned to realize its end or purpose.
2. Ethics as a Science
But accepting this general definition, how, it may be asked, can we speak of a science of conduct at all? Has not science to do with necessary truths, to trace effects from causes, to formulate general laws according to which these causes act, and to draw inevitable and necessary consequences? But is not character just that concerning which no definite conclusions can be predicted? Is not conduct, dependent as it is on the human will, just that which cannot be explained as the resultant of calculable forces? If the will is free then you cannot decide beforehand what line it will take, or predict what shape character must assume. The whole conception of a science of ethics, it is contended, must fall to the ground if we admit an invariable and calculable element in conduct. But this objection is based partly upon a misconception of the function of science and partly upon a too narrow classification of the sciences. Science has not only to do with cause and effect and the laws according to which phenomena actually occur. Science seeks to deal systematically with all truths that are presented to us; and there is a large class of truths not belonging indeed to the realm of natural and physical events which, however, may be studied and correlated. Ethics is not indeed concerned with conduct, as a natural fact, as something done here and now following from certain causes in the past and succeeded by certain results in the future. It is concerned with judgments upon conduct - the judgment that such conduct is right or wrong as measured by a certain standard or end. Hence, a distinction has been made between the physical sciences and what are called normative sciences.
3. A N ormative Science
The natural or physical sciences are concerned simply with phenomena of Nature or mind, actual occurrences which have to be analyzed and classified. The normative sciences, on the other hand, have to do not with mere facts in time or space, but with judgments about these facts, with certain standards or ends (norms, from norma , "a rule") in accordance with which the facts are to be valued. Man cannot be explained by natural law. He is not simply a part of the world, a link in the chain of causality. When we reflect upon his life and his relation to the world we find that he is conscious of himself as an end and that he is capable of forming purposes, of proposing new ends and of directing his thoughts and actions with a view to the attainment of these ends, and making things subservient to him. Such an end or purpose thus forms a norm for the regulation of life; and the laws which must be observed for the attainment of such an end form the subjects of a normal or normative science. Ethics therefore has to do with the norm or standard of right or wrong, and is concerned primarily with the laws which regulate our judgments and guide our actions.
4. Relation to Cognate Sciences
Man is of course a unity, but it is possible to view his self-consciousness in three different aspects, and to regard his personality as constituted of an intellectual, sentient and volitional element. Roughly corresponding to these three aspects, one in reality but separable in thought, there arise three distinct though interdependent mental sciences: metaphysics , which has to do with man's relation to the universe of which he forms a part; psychology , which deals with the nature, constitution and evolution of his faculties and feelings as a psychical being; and ethics , which treats of him as a volitional being, possessing will or determining activity.
(1) Ethics and Metaphysics
Ethics, though distinct from, is closely connected with metaphysics on the one hand, and psychology on the other. If we take metaphysics in its widest sense as including natural theology and as positing some ultimate end to the realization of which the whole process of the world is somehow a means, we may easily see how it is a necessary presupposition or basis of ethical inquiry. The world as made and governed by and for an intelligent purpose, and man as a part of it, having his place and function in a great teleological cosmos, are postulates of the moral life and must be accepted as a basis of all ethical study. The distinction between ethics and metaphysics did not arise at once. In early Greek philosophy they were closely united. Even now the two subjects cannot be completely dissociated. Ethics invariably runs back into metaphysics, or at least into theology, and in every philosophical system in which the universe is regarded as having an ultimate end or good, the good of human beings is conceived as identical with or included in the universal good (see Ziegler, Gesch. der christlichen Ethik ; also Sidgwick, History of Ethics ).
(2) Ethics and Psychology
On the other hand ethics is closely associated with, though distinguishable from, psychology . Questions of conduct inevitably lead to inquiries as to certain states of the agent's mind, for we cannot pronounce an action morally good or bad until we have investigated the qualities of intention, purpose, motive and disposition which lie at the root of the action. Hence, all students of ethics are agreed that the main object of their investigation must belong to the psychical side of human life, whether they hold that man's ultimate end is to be found in the sphere of pleasure or they maintain that his well-being lies in the realization of virtue. Questions as to existence, evolution and adequacy of a moral faculty (see Conscience ); as to the relation of pleasure and desire; as to the meaning of validity of voluntary action; as to the historical evolution of moral customs and ideals, and man's relation at each stage of his being to the social, political and religious institutions, belong indeed to a science of ethics, but they have their roots in psychology as a study of the human soul.
The very existence of a science of ethics depends upon the answers which psychology gives to such questions. If, for example, we decide that there is no such faculty in man as conscience and that the moral sense is but a natural manifestation which has gradually evolved with the physical and social evolution of man (Darwin, Spencer); or if we deny the self-determining power of human beings and assume that the freedom of the will is a delusion, or in the last resort a negligible element, and treat man as one of the many phenomena of a physical universe, then indeed we may continue to speak of a science of the moral life as some naturalistic writers do, but such a science would not be a science of ethics as we understand it. Whatever be our explanation of conscience and freedom, no theory as to these powers must depersonalize man, and we may be justly suspicious of any system of psychology which undermines the authority of the moral sense or paves the way for a complete irresponsibility.
Ethics is based on the assumption that man is a person possessing rights and having duties - responsible therefore for his intentions as well as his actions. The idea of personality involves not only a sense of accountability but carries with it also the conception of a law to which man is to conform, an ideal at which he is to aim. The end of life with all its implications forms the subject of ethics. It is concerned not simply with what a man is or does, but more particularly with what he should be and do. Hence, the word "ought" is the most distinctive term of ethics. The "ought" of life constitutes at once the end or ideal and the law of man. It comprises end , rule and motive of action. Thus the problem of ethics comes to be regarded as the highest good of man, the τὸ ἀγαθόν , tó agathón , of the Greeks, the summum bonum of Latin philosophy.
5. Relation of Christian Ethics to Moral Philosophy
If ethics generally is based upon the postulates of philosophy and psychology, and at each stage of human consciousness grounds its principles of life upon the view of the world and of man to which it has attained, Christian ethics presupposes the Christian view of life as revealed by Christ, and its definition must be in harmony with the Christian ideal. Christian ethics is the science of morals conditioned by Christianity, and the problems which it discusses are the nature, laws and duties of the moral life as dominated by the Supreme Good which Christians believe to have been revealed in and through the life and teaching of Jesus Christ. Christian ethics is thus a branch or particular application of general ethics. So far from being opposed to moral philosophy it is the inevitable outcome of the evolution of thought. For if the revelation of God through Christ is true, then it is a factor, and the greatest in life and destiny, which must condition man's entire outlook and give a new value to his aims and duties.
(1) Not an Opposition
In Christianity we are confronted with the motive power of a great Personality entering into the current of human history, and by His preëminent spiritual force giving a direction to the moral life of man. This means that the moral life can only be understood by reference to the creative power of this Personality. If there is any place at all for a distinct science of Christian ethics, that place can be indicated only by starting from the ethical ideal embodied in Christ, and working out from that point a code of morality for the practical guidance of the Christian life. But while this truth gives to Christian ethics its distinctive character and preëminent worth, it neither throws discredit upon philosophical ethics nor separates the two sciences by any hard-and-fast lines. They have much in common. A large domain of conduct is covered by both. The so-called pagan virtues have their worth for Christian character and are in the line of Christian virtues. Man even in his natural state is constituted for the moral life and is not without some knowledge of right and wrong ( Romans 1:20 ). The moral attainments of the ancients are not simply "splendid vices." Duty may differ in content, but it is of the same kind under every system. Purity is purity, and benevolence benevolence, and both are excellences, whether manifested in a heathen or a Christian. While therefore Christian ethics takes its point of departure from the revelation of God and the manifestation of man's possibilities in Christ, it accepts and uses the results of moral philosophy in so far as they throw light upon the fundamental facts of human nature. As a system of morals Christianity claims to be inclusive. It takes cognizance of all the data of consciousness, and assumes all ascertained truth as its own. It completes what is lacking in other systems in so far as their conclusions are based on an incomplete survey of facts. Christian morals, in short, deal with personality in its highest ranges of moral power and spiritual consciousness, and seek to interpret life by its greatest possibilities and loftiest attainments as they have been revealed in Christ.
(2) Philosophical Postulates
As illustrating what has just been said two distinctive features of Christian morals may be noted, of which philosophical ethics takes little or no account:
( a ) Christian ethics assumes a latent spirituality in man awaiting the Spirit of God to call it forth. "Human nature," says Newman Smyth, "has its existence in an ethical sphere and for moral ends of being." There is a natural capacity for ethical life to which man's whole constitution points. Matter itself may be said to exist ultimately for spirit, and the spirit of man for the Holy Spirit (compare Rothe, Theologische Ethik , I, 459). No theory of man's physical beginning can interfere with the assumption that man stands upon a moral plane and is capable of a life which shapes itself to spiritual ends. Whatever be man's history and evolution, he has from the beginning been made in God's image, and he bears the Divine impress in all the lineaments of his body and soul. His degradation cannot wholly obliterate his nobility, and his actual corruption bears witness to his possible holiness. Christian morality is therefore nothing else than the morality prepared from all eternity, and is but the highest realization of that which heathen virtue was striving after. This is the Pauline view of human nature. Jesus Christ, according to the apostle, is the end and consummation of the whole creation. Everywhere there is a capacity for Christ. Man is not simply what he now is, but all that he is yet to be ( 1 Corinthians 15:47-49 ).
( b ) Connected with this peculiarity is another which further differentiates Christian ethics from philosophical - the problem of the re-creation of character . Speculative systems do not advance beyond the formation of moral requirements; they prescribe what ought ideally to be done or avoided. Christianity, on the other hand, is primarily concerned with the question, By what power can I achieve the right and the good? (compare Ottley, Christian Ideas and Ideals , 22). It regards human nature as in need of renewal and recovery. It points to a process by which character can be restored and transformed. It claims to be the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth ( Romans 1:16 ). Christian ethics thus makes the twofold assumption, and in this its contrast to philosophical ethics is disclosed, that the ideal of humanity has been revealed in Jesus Christ and that in Him also there is supplied a power by which man may become his true self, all that his natural life gives promise of and potentially is.
Passing from a consideration of the data of Christian ethics to its method , we find that here again there is much that is common to philosophy and Christian morals. The method in both is the rational method. The Christian ideal, though given in Christ, has to be examined, analyzed and applied by the very same faculties as man employs in regard to speculative problems. All science must be furnished with facts, and its task is to give a consistent explanation of them. While the speculative thinker finds his facts in the constitution of the moral world at large, the Christian discovers his in Scripture, and more particularly in the teachings of Christ. But it is sufficient to point out that while the New Testament is largely occupied with ethical matters, there is no attempt at a scientific formulation of them. The materials of systematic treatment are there, but the task of coordinating and classifying principles is the work of the expositor. The data are supplied but these data require to be interpreted, unified and applied so as to form a system of ethics. Consequently in dealing with his facts, the same method must be employed by the Christian expositor as by the student of science. That is the method of rational inquiry and inductive procedure - the method imposed upon all mental problems by the essential nature of the mind itself. The authority to which Christian ethics appeals is not an external oracle which imposes its dictates in a mechanical way. It is an authority embodied in intelligible forms and appealing to the reasoning faculties of man. Christian ethics is not a cut-and-dried, ready-made code. It has to be thought out by man and brought to bear, through the instrumentality of his thinking powers, upon all the relationships of life. According to the Protestant view, at least, ethics is no stereotyped compendium of rules which the Bible or the church supplies to save a man from the trouble of thinking. It is a complete misapprehension of the nature of Scripture and of the purpose of Christ's example and teaching to assume that they afford a mechanical standard which must be copied or obeyed in a slavish way. Christ appeals to the rational nature of man, and His words are life and spirit only as they are apprehended in an intelligent way and become by inner conviction and personal appropriation the principles of thought and action:
6. Relation of Christian Ethics to Dogmatics
Within the domain of theology the two main constituents of Christian of teaching are dogmatics and ethics, or doctrine and morals. Though it is convenient to treat these separately, they really form a whole, and are but two sides of one subject. It is difficult to define their limits, and to say where dogmatics ends and ethics begins.
The distinction has sometimes been expressed by saying that dogmatics is a theoretic, while ethics is a practical science. It is true that ethics stands nearer to everyday life and deals with methods of practical conduct, while dogmatics is concerned with beliefs and treats of their origin and elucidation. But on the other hand ethics discusses thoughts as well as actions, and is interested in inner judgments not less than outward achievements. There is a practical side to all doctrine; and there is a theoretic side of all morals. In proportion as dogmatic theology becomes divorced from practical interest there is a danger that it may become mere pedantry. Even the most theoretic of sciences, metaphysics, while, as Novalis said, it bakes no bread, has its justification in its bearing upon life. On the other hand, ethics would lose all scientific value and would sink into a mere enumeration of duties if it had no dogmatic basis and did not draw its motives from beliefs. The common statement that dogmatics shows what we should believe and ethics what we should do is only approximately true and is inadequate. For moral laws and precepts are also objects of faith, and what we should believe involves a moral requirement and has a moral character.
(1) The Connection
Schleiermacher has been frequently charged with ignoring the differences between the two disciplines, but with scant justice; for while he regards the two studies as but different branches of Christian doctrine and while emphasizing their intimate connection, he by no means neglects their differences (compare Schleiermacher, Christliche Lehre , 1-24). Recent Christian moralists (Dorner, Martensen, Wuttke, Haering, Lemme) tend to accentuate the distinction and claim for them a separate discussion. The ultimate connection cannot indeed be overlooked without loss to both. It leads only to confusion to talk of a creedless morality, and the attempt to deal with moral questions without reference to their dogmatic implication will not only rob Christian ethics of its distinctive character and justification, but will reduce the exposition to a mere system of emotionalism. Dogmatics and ethics may be regarded as interdependent and mutually serviceable. On the one hand, ethics saves dogmatics from evaporating into unsubstantial speculation, and, by affording the test of life and workableness, keeps it upon the solid foundation of fact. On the other hand, dogmatics supplies ethics with its formative principles and normative standards, and preserves the moral life from degenerating into the vagaries of fanaticism or the apathy of fatalism.
(2) The Distinction
While both sciences form the complementary sides of theology, and stand in the relation of mutual service, ethics presupposes dogmatics and is based upon its postulates. Dogmatics presents the essence, contents and object of the religious consciousness; ethics presents this consciousness as a power determining the human will (Wuttke). In the one, the Christian life is regarded from the standpoint of dependence on God; in the other, from the standpoint of human freedom. Dogmatics deals with faith in relation to God, and as the receptive organ of Divine grace; ethics considers it rather in its relation to man as a human activity, and as the organ of conduct (compare Lemme, Christliche Ethik , I, 15). Doctrine shows us how our adoption into the kingdom of God is the work of Divine love; ethics shows us how this knowledge of salvation manifests itself in love to God and our neighbor and must be worked out through all the relationships of life (compare Haering).
(3) Theological Postulates
From this point of view we may see how dogmatics supplies to ethics certain postulates which may briefly be enumerated.
(A) The Christian Idea of God
God is not merely a force or even a creator as He is presented in philosophy. Divine power must be qualified by what we term the moral attributes of God. We do not deny His omnipotence, but we look beyond it to "the love that tops the power, the Christ in God." Moreover we recognize a gradation in God's moral qualities: ( a ) benevolence or kindness; ( b ) more deeply ethical and in seeming contrast to His benevolence, Divine justice - not mere blind benevolence but a kindness which is wise and discriminating (compare Butler); ( c ) highest in the scale of Divine attributes, uniting in one comprehensive quality kindness and justice, stands Divine love or grace . The God whom dogmatics postulates to ethics is God in Christ.
(B) The Christian Doctrine of Sin
It is not the province of ethics to discuss the origin of evil or propound a theory of sin. But it must see to it that the view it takes is consistent with the truths of revelation and in harmony with the facts of life. A false or inadequate conception of sin is as detrimental for ethics as it is for dogmatics, and upon our doctrine of evil depends very largely our view of life as to its difficulties and purposes, its trials and triumphs. Three views of sin have been held. According to some (e.g. the ancient Greeks) sin is simply a defect or shortcoming, a missing of the mark ( ἁμαρτία , hamartı́a , the active principle, or ἁμάρτημα , hamártēma , the result); according to others, it is a disease, a thing latent in the constitution or at least an infirmity or limitation inherent in the flesh and resulting from heredity and environment (see Evolution ).
While there is truth in both of these views, by themselves, each separately, or both in combination, is defective. They do not sufficiently take account of the personal self-determinative element in all sin. It is a misfortune, a fate from which the notion of guilt is absent. The Christian view implies these conceptions, but it adds its own distinctive note which gives to them their value. Sin is not merely a negative thing, it is something positive, an inward dominating force. It is not merely an imperfection, or want; it is an excess, a trespass. It is not simply an inherited and inherent malady; it is a self-chosen perversion. It is not inherent in the flesh or animal impulses and physical passions: it belongs rather to the mind and will. Its essence lies in selfishness. It is the deliberate choice of self in preference to God. It is personal and willful rebellion. It is to be overcome, therefore, not by the suppression of the body or the excision of the passions, but by the acceptance of a new principle of life and a transformation of the whole man. There are of course degrees and stages of wrongdoing, and there are compensating circumstances which must be taken into account in estimating the significance of evil; but in its last resort Christian ethics postulates the fact of sin and regards it as personal rebellion against the holiness of God, as the deliberate choice of self and the willful perversion of all the powers of man into instruments of unrighteousness.
(C) The Responsibility of Man
A third postulate arises as a consequence from the Christian view of God and the Christian view of sin, namely, the responsibility of man . Christian ethics treats every man as accountable for his thoughts and actions, and therefore capable of choosing the good as revealed in Christ. While not denying the sovereignty of God or minimizing the mystery of evil and clearly recognizing the universality of sin, Christianity firmly maintains the doctrine of human freedom and accountability. An ethic would be impossible if, on the one side, grace were absolutely irresistible, and if, on the other, sin were necessitated, if at any single point wrongdoing were inevitable. Whatever be our doctrine on these subjects, ethics demands that freedom of the will be safeguarded.
At this point an interesting question emerges as to the possibility, apart from a knowledge of Christ, of choosing the good. Difficult as this question is, and though it was answered by Augustine and many of the early Fathers in the negative, the modern, and probably the more just, view is that we cannot hold mankind responsible unless we accord to all men the larger freedom. If non-Christians are fated to do evil, then no guilt can be imputed. History shows that a love for goodness has sometimes existed, and that many isolated acts of purity and kindness have been done, among people who have known nothing of the historical Christ. The New Testament recognizes degrees of depravity in nations and individuals and a measure of noble aspiration and earnest effort in ordinary human nature. Paul plainly assumes some knowledge and performance on the part of the heathen, and though he denounces their immorality in unsparing terms he does not affirm that pagan society was so utterly corrupt that it had lost all knowledge of moral good.
II. Historical Sketch of Ethics
A comprehensive treatment of our subject would naturally include a history of ethics from the earliest times to the present. For ethics as a branch of philosophical inquiry partakes of the historical development of all thought, and the problems which it presents to our day can be rightly appreciated only in the light of certain categories and concepts - such as end, good, virtue, duty, pleasure, egoism and altruism - which have been evolved through the successive stages of the movement of ethical thoughts. All we can attempt here, however, is the baldest outline of the different epochs of ethical inquiry as indicating the preparatory stages which lead up to and find their solution in the ethics of Christianity.
1. Greek Philosophy
All the great religions of the world - of India, Persia and Egypt - have had their ethical implicates, but these have consisted for the most part of loosely connected moral precepts or adages. Before the golden age of Greek philosophy there were no ethics in the strict sense. The moral consciousness of the Greeks takes its rise with the Sophists, and particularly with Socrates, who were the first to protest against the long-established customs and traditions of their land. The so-called "wise men" were in part moralists, but their sayings are but isolated maxims presenting no unity or connection. Philosophy proper occupied itself primarily with purely metaphysical or ontological questions as to the nature of being, the form and origin and primal elements of the world. It was only when Greek religion and poetry had lost their hold upon the cultured and the beliefs of the past had come to be doubted, that questions as to the meaning of life and conduct arose.
Already the Sophists had drawn attention to the vagueness and inconsistency of common opinion, and had begun to teach the art of conduct, but it was Socrates who, as it was said, first brought philosophy down from heaven to the sphere of the earth and directed men's minds from merely natural things to human life. He was indeed the first moral philosopher, inasmuch as, while the Sophists talked about justice and law and temperance, they could not tell, when pressed, what these things were. The first task of Socrates, therefore, was to expose human ignorance. All our confusion and disputes about good arise, says. Socrates, from want of clear knowledge. He aimed, therefore, at producing knowledge, not merely for its own sake, but because he believed it to be the ground of all right conduct. Nobody does wrong willingly. Let a man know what is good, that is, what is truly beneficial, and he will do it. Hence, the famous Socratic dictum, "Virtue is knowledge and vice is ignorance." With all his intellectualism Socrates was really a hedonist, believing that pleasure was the ultimate end of life. For it must not be imagined that he conceived of knowledge of virtue as distinct from interest. Everyone naturally seeks the good because the good is really identified with his happiness. The wise man is necessarily the happy man, and hence, "to know one's self" is to learn the secret of well-being.
While Socrates was the first to direct attention to the nature of virtue, his one-sided and fragmentary conception of it received a more systematic treatment from Plato, who attempted to define the nature and end of man by his place in the cosmos. Plato thus brought ethics into intimate connection with metaphysics. He conceived an ideal world in which everything earthly and human had its prototype. The human soul is derived from the world-soul and, like it, is a mixture of two elements. On the one side, in virtue of reason, it participates in the world of ideas, or the life of God; and on the other, by virtue of its animal impulses, it partakes of the world of decay, the corporeal world. These two dissimilar parts are connected by an intermediate element, which Plato calls θυμός , thumós , embracing courage, the love of honor and the affections of the heart - a term which may be translated by the will. The constitution of the inner man is manifested in his outward organization. The head is the seat of reason, the breast of the heart and the affections, and the lower part of the body of the organs of animal desire. If we ask, Who is the just man? Plato answers, The man in whom the three elements just mentioned harmonize. We thus arrive at the scheme of the so-called "cardinal virtues" which have persisted through all ages and have given direction to all ethical discussion - wisdom , courage , temperance which, in combination, give us justice . It will thus be observed that virtue is no longer simply identified with knowledge; but another form of bad conduct besides ignorance is assumed, namely, the internal disorder and conflict of the soul, in which the lower impulses war with the higher. This, it will be seen, is a distinct advance on the one-sided position of Socrates; but in his attempt to reconcile the two movements in the conflict of life, Plato does not succeed in overcoming the duality. The inner impulses are ever dragging man down, and man's true well-being lies in the attainment of the life of reason. But though there are gleams of a higher solution in Plato, as a rule he falls back upon the idea that virtue is to be attained only by the suppression of the animal passions and the mortifying of the lower life. Plato affords us also the primal elements of social ethics. Morality as conceived by him is not something belonging merely to the individual, but has its full realization in the state. Man is indeed but-a type of the larger cosmos, and it is not as an individual but as a citizen that he is capable of realizing his true life.
The ethics of Aristotle, while it completes, does not essentially differ from that of Plato. He is the first to treat of the subject formally as a science, which assumes in his hands a division of politics. For, as he says, man is really "a social animal"; and, even more decisively than Plato, he treats of man as a part of society. Aristotle begins his great work on ethics with the discussion of the chief good , which he declares to be happiness or well-being. Happiness does not consist, however, in sensual pleasure, or even in the pursuit of honor, but in a life of well-ordered contemplation, "an activity of the soul in accordance with reason" ( Nic. Eth ., I, chapter v). But to reach the goal of right thinking and right doing, both favorable surroundings and proper instruction are required. Virtue is not virtue until it is a habit, and the only way to become virtuous is to practice virtue. It will thus be seen that Aristotle balances the one-sided emphasis of Socrates and Plato upon knowledge by the insistence upon habit. Activity must be combined with reason. The past and the present, environment and knowledge, must both be acknowledged as elements in the making of life. The virtues are thus habits, but habits of deliberate choice. Virtue is therefore an activity which at every point seeks to strike the mean between two opposite excesses. Plato's list of virtues had the merit of simplicity, but Aristotle's, though fuller, lacks system and consists generally of right actions which are determined in reference to two extremes. One defect which strikes a modern is that among the virtues benevolence is not recognized except obscurely as a form of liberality; and in general the gentler self-sacrificing virtues so prominent in Christianity have no place. The virtues. are chiefly aristocratic and are impossible for a slave. Again while Aristotle did well, in opposition to previous philosophy, to recognize the function of habit, it must be pointed out that habit of itself cannot make a man virtuous. Mere habit may be a hindrance and not a help to higher attainment. You cannot reduce morality to a succession of customary acts. But the main defect of Aristotle's treatment of virtue is that he regards the passions as wholly irrational and immoral. He does not see that passion in this sense can have no mean. If you may have too much of a good thing, you cannot have even a little of a bad thing. In man the desires and impulses are never purely irrational. Reason enters into all his appetites and gives to the body and all the physical powers an ethical value and a moral use. We do not become virtuous by curbing the passions but by transfiguring them into the vehicle of good. Aristotle, not less than Plato, is affected by the Greek duality which makes an antithesis between reason and impulse, and imparts to the former an external supremacy.
(5) Stoics and Epicureans
The two conflicting elements of reason and impulse which neither Plato nor Aristotle succeeded in harmonizing ultimately gave rise to two opposite interpretations of the moral life. The Stoics selected the rational nature as the true guide to an ethical system, but they gave to it a supremacy so rigid as to threaten the extinction of the affections. The Epicureans, on the other hand, seizing the doctrine that happiness is the chief good, so accentuated the emotional side of nature as to open the door for all manner of sensual enjoyment. Both agree in determining the happiness of the individual as the final goal of moral conduct. It, is not necessary to dwell upon the particular tenets of Epicurus and his followers. For though both Epicureanism and Stoicism, as representing the chief tendencies of ethical inquiry, have exercised incalculable influence upon speculation and practical morals of later ages, it is the doctrines of Stoicism which have more specially come into contact with Christianity.
Without dwelling upon the stoic conception of the world, according to which the universe was a whole, interpenetrated and controlled by an inherent spirit, and the consequent view of life as proceeding from God and being in all its parts equally Divine, we may note that the Stoics, like Plato and Aristotle, regarded the realization of man's natural purpose as the true well-being or highest good. This idea they formulated into a principle: "Life according to Nature." The wise man is he who strives to live in agreement with his rational nature in all the circumstances of life. The law of Nature is to avoid what is hurtful and strive for what is appropriate; and pleasure arises as an accompaniment when a being obtains that which is fitting. Pleasure and pain are, however, to be regarded as mere accidents or incidents of life and to be met by the wise man with indifference. He alone is free, the master of himself and the world, who acknowledges the absolute supremacy of reason and makes himself independent of earthly desires. This life of freedom is open to all, for all men are equal, members of one great body. The slave may be as free as the consul and each can make the world his servant by living in harmony with it.
There is a certain sublimity in the ethics of Stoicism. It was a philosophy which appealed to noble minds and "it inspired nearly all the great characters of the early Roman empire and nerved every attempt to maintain the dignity and freedom of the human soul" (Lecky, History of European Morals , I, chapter ii). We cannot, however, be blind to its defects. With all their talk of Divine immanence and providence, it was nothing but an impersonal destiny which the Stoics recognized as governing the universe. "Harmony with Nature" was simply a sense of proud self-sufficiency. Stoicism is the glorification of reason, even to the extent of suppressing all emotion. It has no real sense of sin. Sin is un-reason, and salvation lies in the external control of the passions, in indifference and apathy begotten of the atrophy of desire. The great merit of the Stoics is that they emphasized inner moral integrity as the one condition of all right action and true happiness, and in an age of degeneracy insisted on the necessity of virtue. In its preference for the joys of the inner life and its scorn of the delights of sense; in its emphasis upon duty and its advocacy of a common humanity, together with its belief in the direct relation of each human soul to God, Stoicism, as revealed in the writings of a Seneca, a Marcus Aurelius and an Epictetus, not only showed how high paganism at its best could reach, but proved in a measure a preparation for Christianity with whose practical tenets, in spite of its imperfections, it had much in common.
(7) Stoicism and Paul
That there are remarkable affinities between Stoicism and Pauline ethics has frequently been pointed out. The similarity both in language and sentiment can scarcely be accounted for by mere coincidence. There were elements in Stoic philosophy which Paul would not have dreamed of assimilating, and features with which he could have no sympathy. The pantheistic view of God and the material conception of the world, the self-conscious pride, the absence of all sense of sin and need of pardon, the temper of apathy and the unnatural suppression of feelings - these were features which could not but rouse in the apostle's mind strong antagonism. But on the other hand there were certain well-known characteristics of a nobler order in Stoic morality which we may believe Paul found ready to his hand, ideas which he did not hesitate to incorporate in his teaching and employ in the service of the gospel. Without enlarging upon this line of thought (compare Alexander, Ethics of St. Paul ), of these we may mention the immanence of God as the pervading cause of all life and activity; the idea of wisdom or knowledge as the ideal of man; the conception of freedom as the prerogative of the individual; and the notion of brotherhood as the goal of humanity.
It will be possible only to sketch in a few rapid strokes the subsequent development of ethical thought. After the varied life of the early centuries had passed, Christian ethic (so prominent in the Gospels and Epistles), like Christian theology, fell under the blight of Gnostieism (Alexandrian philosophy; compare Hatch, Hibbert Lectures ) and latterly, of Scholasticism. Christian truth stiffened into a cumbrous catalogue of ecclesiastical observances. In the early Fathers (Barnabas, Clement, Origen, Gregory), dogmatic and ethical teaching were hardly distinguished. Cyprian discussed moral questions from the standpoint of church discipline.
The first real attempt at a Christian ethic was made by Ambrose, whose treatise on the Duties is an imitation of Cicero's work of the same title. Even Augustine, notwithstanding his profound insight into the nature of sin, treats of moral questions incidentally. Perhaps the only writers among the schoolmen, except Alcuin ( Virtues and Vices ), who afford anything like elaborate moral treatises, are Abelard ( Ethica , or Scito te Ipsum ), Peter Lombard ( Sentences ), and, above all, Thomas Aquinas ( Summa , II).
Emancipation from a legal dogmatism first came with the Reformation which was in essence a moral revival. The relation of God and man came to be re-stated under the inspiration of Biblical truth, and the value and rights of man as man, so long obscured, were disclosed. The conscience was liberated and Luther became the champion of individual liberty.
Descartes and Spinoza
The philosophical writers who most fully express in the domain of pure thought the protestant spirit are Descartes and Spinoza, with whom speculation with regard to man's distinctive nature and obligations took a new departure. Without following the fortunes of philosophy on the continent of Europe, which took a pantheistic form in Germany and a materialistic tone in France (though Rousseau directed the thought of Europe to the constitution of man), we may remark that in England thought assumed a practical complexion, and on the basis of the inquiries of Locke, Berkeley and Hume into the nature and limits of the human understanding, the quest. ions as to the source of moral obligation and the faculty of moral judgment came to the front.
4. English Moralists
British moralists may be classified mainly cording to their views on this subject. Beginning with Hobbes, who maintained that man was naturally selfish and that all his actions were self-regarding, Cudworth, More, Wallaston, Shaftesbury, Hutchison, Adam Smith and others discussed the problem, with varying success, of the relation of individual and social virtues, agreeing generally that the right balance between the two is due to a moral sense which, like taste or perception of beauty, guides us in things moral. All these intuitional writers fall back upon a native selfish instinct. Selfishness, disguise it as we may, or, as it came to be called, utility , is really the spring and standard of action. Butler in his contention for the supremacy and uniqueness of conscience took an independent but scarcely more logical attitude. Both he and all the later British moralists, Paley, Bentham, Mill, suffer from a narrow, artificial psychology which conceives of the various faculties as separate and independent elements lying in man.
Utilitarianism is a scheme of consequences which finds the moral quality of conduct in the effects and feelings created in the subject. With all their differences of detail the representatives of theory are at one in regarding the chief end of man as happiness. Bentham and Mill made the attempt to deduce benevolence from the egoistic startingpoint. "No reason can be given," says Mill ( Utilitarianism , chapter iv), "why the general happiness is desirable except that each person ... desires his own happiness ... and the general happiness therefore is a good to the aggregate of all persons." Late utilitarians, dissatisfied with this non-sequitur and renouncing the dogma of personal pleasure, maintain that we ought to derive universal happiness because reason bids us (compare Sidgwick, Methods of Ethics , III, xiii). But what, we may ask, is this reason, and why should I listen to her voice?
6. Evolutionary Ethics
The intuitional theory has more recently allied itself with the hypothesis of organic evolution. "These feelings of self-love and benevolence are really," says Spencer, "the products of development. The natural instincts and impulses to social good, though existent in a rudimentary animal form, have been evolved through environment, heredity and social institutions to which man through his long history has been subject." But this theory only carries the problem farther back, for, as Green well says ( Proleg. to Ethics ), "that countless generations should have passed during which a transmitted organism was progressively modified by reaction on its surroundings till an eternal consciousness could realize itself ... might add to the wonder, but it could not alter the results."
The great rival of the pleasure-philosophy is that which has been styled "duty for duty's sake." This position was first taken by Kant whose principle of the "Categorical Imperative" utterly broke down theory of "pleasure for pleasure's sake." For Kant, conscience is simply practical reason; and its laws by him are reduced to unity. Reason, though limited in its knowledge of objects to phenomena of the senses, in the region of practice transcends the phenomenal and attains the real. The autonomy of the will carries us beyond the phenomenal into the supersensible world. Here the "Categorical Imperative" or moral law utters its "thou shalt" and prescribes' a principle of conduct irrespective of desire or ulterior end. In accordance with the nature of the Categorical Imperative, the formula of all morality is, "Act from a maxim at all times fit for law universal" ( Kritik d. praktischen Vernunft and Grundlage zur Metaphysik der Sitten ).
This principle is, however, defective. For while it determines the subjective or formal side of duty, it tells us nothing of the objective side, of the content of duty. We may learn from Kant the grandeur of duty in the abstract and the need of obedience to it, but we do not learn what duty is. Kant's law remains formal, abstract and contentless, without relation to the matter of practical life.
8. German Idealists
To overcome this abstraction, to give content to the law of reason and find its realization in the institutions and relationships of life and society, has been the aim of the later idealistic philosophy which starts from Kant.
Following Fichte, for whom morality is action according to the ideas of reason - selfconsciousness finding itself in and through a world of deeds - H egel starts with the Idea as the source of all reality, and develops the conception of Conscious Personality which, by overcoming the antithesis of impulse and thought, gradually attains to the full unity and realization of self in the consciousness of the world and of God. The law of Right or of all ethical ideal is, "Be a person and respect others as persons" (Hegel, Philosophie des Rechtes , section 31). These views have been worked out in recent British and American works of speculative ethics by Green, Bradley, Caird, McTaggart, Harris, Royce, Dewey, Watson.
Man as a self is rooted in an infinite self or personality. Our individual self-consciousness is derived from and maintained by an infinite eternal and universal self-consciousness. Knowledge is, therefore, but the gradual discovery of mind in things, the progressive realization of the world as the self-manifestation of an infinite Personality with whom the finite intelligence of man is one. Hence, morality is the gradual unfolding of an eternal purpose whose whole is the perfection of man.
(2) Watchwords: Pleasure and Duty
We have thus seen that in the history of ethics two great rival watchwords have been sounded - pleasure and duty , or, to put it another way, egoism and altruism. Both have their justification, yet each taken separately is abstract and one-sided. The problem of ethics is how to harmonize without suppressing these two extremes, how to unite social duty and individual right in a higher unity. We have seen that philosophical ethics has sought a synthesis of these conflicting moments in the higher and more adequate conception of human personality - a personality whose ideals and activities are identified with the eternal and universal personality of God. Christianity also recognizes the truth contained in the several types of ethical philosophy which we have passed under review, but it adds something which is distinctively its own, and thereby gives a new meaning to happiness and to duty, to self and to others.
Christian synthesis: Christianity also emphasizes the realization of personality with all that it implies as the true goal of man; but while Christ bids man "be perfect as God is perfect," He shows us that we only find ourselves as we find ourselves in others; only by dying do we live; and only through profound self-surrender and sacrifice do we become ourselves and achieve the highest good.
III. Principles and Characteristics of Biblical Ethics
The sketch of the history of ethics just offered, brief as it necessarily is, may serve to indicate the ideas which have shaped modern thought and helped toward the interpretation of the Christian view of life which claims to be the fulfillment of all human attempts to explain the highest good. We now enter upon the third division of our subject which embraces a discussion generally of Biblical ethics, dealing first with the ethics of the Old Testament and next with the leading ideas of the New Testament.
1. Ethics of the Old Testament
The gospel of Christ stands in the closest relation with Hebrew religion, and revelation in the New Testament fulfils and completes the promise given in the Old Testament. We have seen that the thinkers of Greece and Rome have contributed much to Christendom, and have helped to interpret Bible teaching with regard to truth and duty; but there is no such inward relation between them as that which connects Christian ethics with Old Testament morality. Christ himself, and still more the apostle Paul, assumed as a substratum of his teaching the revelation which had been granted to the Jews. The moral and religious doctrines which were comprehended under the designation of "the Law" formed for them, as Paul said ( Galatians 3:24 , Galatians 3:25 ), a παιδαγωγός , paidagōgós , or servant whose function it was to lead them to the school of Christ. In estimating the special character of Old Testament ethics, we are not concerned with questions as to authenticity and dates of the various books, nor with the manifold problems raised by modern Biblical criticism. While not forgetting the very long period which these books cover, involving changes of belief and life and embracing successive stages of political society, it is possible to regard the Old Testament simply as a body of writings which represent the successive ethical ideas of the Hebrews as a people.
(1) Religious Characteristics of Hebrew Ethics
At the outset we are impressed by the fact that the moral ideal of Judaism was distinctly religious. The moral obligations were conceived as Divine commands and the moral law as a revelation of the Divine will. The religion was monotheistic. At first Yahweh may have been regarded merely as a tribal Deity, but gradually this restricted view gave place to a wider conception of God as the God of all men; and as such He was presented by the later prophets. God was for the Jew the supreme source and author of the moral law, and throughout his history duty was embodied in the Divine will. Early in the Pentateuch the note of law is struck, and the fundamental elements of Jewish morality are embedded in the story of Eden and the Fall. God's commandment is the criterion and measure of man's obedience. Evil which has its source and head in a hostile though subsidiary power consists in violation of Yahweh's will.
(A) The Decalogue
First among the various stages of Old Testament ethic must be mentioned the Mosaic legislation centering in the Decalogue (Ex 20; Dt 5). Whether the Ten Commandments issue from the time of Moses, or are a later summary of duty, they hold a supreme and formative place in the moral teaching of the Old Testament. All, including even the 4th, are purely moral enactments. But they are largely negative, only the 5th rising to positive duty. They are also chiefly external, regulative of outward conduct, forbidding acts but not taking note of intent and desire. The 6th and 7th commandments protect the rights of persons, while the 8th guards outward property. Though these laws may be shown to have their roots and sanctions in the moral consciousness of mankind and as such are applicable to all times and all men, it is clear that they were at first conceived by the Israelites to be restricted in their scope and practice to their own tribes.
(B) Civil Laws
A further factor in the ethical education of Israel arose from the civil laws of the land. The Book of the Covenant (Ex 20 through 23), as revealing a certain advance in political legislation and jurisprudence, may be regarded as of this kind. Still the hard legal law of retaliation - "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" - discloses a barbarous conception of right. But along with the more primitive enactments of revenge and stern justice there are not wanting provisions of a kindlier nature, such as the law of release, the protection of the fugitive, the arrangements for the gleaner and the institution of the Year of Jubilee.
(C) Ceremonial Laws
Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature 
from ῏Ηθος , originally the Ionic form of Ἔθος , in Germ. Sittenlehre, in English moral philosophy, though this last phrase sometimes covers the whole science of mind. Ethics are related to law and duty, and to virtue and vice. "Aristotle says that ῏Ηθος , which signifies moral virtue, is derived from Ἔθος , custom, since it is by repeated acts that virtue, which is a moral habit, is formed" (see Fleming's Vocab. Philippians page 171). "Ethics, taken in its widest sense, as including the moral sciences or natural jurisprudence, may be divided into,
1. Moral philosophy, or the science of the relations, rights, and duties by which men are under obligations towards God, themselves, and their fellow-creatures.
2. The law of nations, or the science of those laws by which all nations, as constituting the society of the human race, are bound in their mutual relations to one another.
3. Public or political law, or the science of the relations between the different ranks in society.
4. Civil law, or the science of those laws, rights, and duties by which individuals in civil society are bound — as commercial, criminal, judicial, Roman, or modern.
5. History, profane, civil, and political" (Peemans, Introd. Ad Philosoph. page 96). Ethics, then, covers the science of all that is moral, whether it relates to law or action, to God or the creature, to the individual or the state. It goes wherever the ideas of right and wrong can enter.
I. Ethical science may be divided into philosophical ethics, theological ethics, and Christian ethics.
(a.) Philosophical Ethics. — The science, in this aspect, must find its root and its life, its forms and its authority, in the depths of the human constitution This leads necessarily to the idea of God. We do not affirm that ethics cannot be discussed at all without bringing in the notion of a supreme being. On the contrary, it is undeniable that we find in man a moral nature; whatever may be the character of his morality, the very doubts about that imply the fact of morality. He manifestly has relations to virtue and vice, to right and wrong, to blame and praise, to guilt and innocence. True, if he does not accept the idea of God, morals seem to lose their foundation. Why should a man obey the dictates of his nature, even when obedience seems to be right and useful, unless his nature is a product of wisdom, and reveals the law and the nature of an infinite intelligence? But truth is stubborn, and even a fragment of it, swinging in the air without a foundation, will live. Pulled up out of the soil of the doctrine of God, the moral ideas, however shorn of their strength and withered, still assert their authority and insist on obedience, from motives of utility, or fitness, or happiness. A genuine philosophical ethics, however, will find a Creator from the study of the creature, and will raise from the nature of man a law which will ground itself in the idea of God.
(b.) Theological Ethics. — This is grounded upon acme religion or theology. But in this aspect the science is broad enough to cover every religion. The ethics might be theological, and at the same time Buddhistic, or Mohammedan, or Brahminical. Theological ethics, therefore, might be a system on which the fundamental principle of morals had been perverted by the admixture of cruel and impure superstitions, just as a so-called philosophical ethics might be atheistic or pantheistic.
(c.) Christian Ethics. — Christian ethics is theological ethics limited by Christianity. As thus stated, it might appear to be narrower than either philosophical or theological ethics, but in reality it is far otherwise. Philosophical ethics is Christian so far as it is true and just, and, from the very nature of Christianity, as containing a complete account of human duty, it must even be broader and deeper than all human philosophies which relate to it. As to the relation of Christian ethics to any other supposed theological ethics, or to all other theologies in their moral aspects taken together, its position must be that of judge among them all; it must measure them all, eliminating whatever is false, restoring what is lacking, or rather supplanting them one and all as the only standard of moral truth and duty.
Besides, Christian ethics, considered as a science, and hence as a field for speculation, covers the whole ground. Philosophy and theology, in their ethical relations, are entirely within its scope. It must judge them both wherever it touches them. It has made ethics, and indeed all speculation, a different thing from what it was before it entered into human thought, and it aims to master all human thinking within its sphere. It is, to be sure, amenable to philosophical thought, and cannot repel the tests of right reason; it readily enters into the struggle with every adverse intellectual tendency, carrying with it a divine confidence that alone contains the infallible and indestructible norm of humanity regarded as moral. Christian ethics, indeed, considered as speculative, is not infallible. God has given the ethical norm, but man is obliged to speculate for himself Evidently the complete form of Christian ethics, considered as philosophical, has not yet been reached. Its condition is yet militant, both in relation to false systems and to its own development. The genuine Christian ethics, in the scientific sense, lies scattered in various human treatises, in part is yet to be born, and remains to be evolved in the coming ages, and to be wrought into a system of beneficence and beauty which shall settle down on the whole human race, at once an atmosphere )f divine and filial love, and an antidote to discord, injustice, and all impurity.
"As between theological and philosophical speculation, so between theological and philosophical ethics, in so far as they are speculative, we must make a strong distinction. The latter pair differ precisely as the former do. But, much as philosophical and theological ethics differ, they are not opposites. Within the Christian world, Christian ethics, like philosophy in general, must always be' essentially Christian. It has always been so, as the result of an inviolable historical necessity, but in different degrees at different periods of time, and in the several stages of its progress. There may, indeed, arise a relative hostility between philosophical ethics and the contemporaneous Christian teaching, or even a hostility between ethical writers and Christianity in general; or, rather, such a hostility is unavoidable precisely in the degree in which humanity fails to be penetrated by Christianity. But, so long as this continues to be the case, it must be a proof of imperfection, not in philosophy only, but also in Christian piety. For even if Christian piety, looking at the doctrine in itself, should be convinced that it possessed the true results, yet she possesses her treasure without the scientific ability to understand it, or; to vindicate it to the understanding of others. It is, therefore, as science, still imperfect. A result of this will be that theological ethics will share in the imperfection. So long as the moral consciousness of the Christian, which is specifically determined by the church of which he is a member, does not clearly recognize itself in the forms of morality prevailing in his circle, a Christian ethical philosophy must remain a want — a desideratum. This, however, is only to say that this want will last while the general moral sentiment and that of the Church remain apart. The more nearly each approaches perfection in its own sphere, the nearer they come to being one. If we conceive of each as perfect, they remain two only in form, i.e., not different in their method, but only in the order according to which, under the same method, they scientifically arrange themselves.
"What has now been said of the relation between philosophical and theological ethics, holds of the latter only so far as it is conceived of as speculative. In other modes of treating theological ethics, especially in the traditional, it is easy to conceive that the relation would be different... . It must be distinctly affirmed that a Christian character belongs to philosophical ethics throughout the Christian world. We do not mean that it ought to be so, but that it really is so; not, indeed, always in the highest and fullest sense, and as it ought to be, but still, in such a sense, whatever men may be conscious of, that without Christianity it never could have been what it is. In the Christian world there is no element of the moral or intellectual life which is not associated with some result of Christianity, itself undeniably the ground-principle of the historical development of our whole, Christian times. It can never be sufficiently remembered, especially in our own times, that what is actually Christian, and, indeed, what is essentially and specifically Christian, reaches, in all the relations of life, far beyond the sphere to which usage gives the name of Christian, or of which the present generation is at all conscious as Christian. The Christian element inheres in the very blood of that portion of humanity which passes under the name of Christendom. This is not the less true because certain individuals belonging to the Christian community may not feel its regenerating power. Besides, that would be a poor ethical system, considered as philosophy, which should ignore the great facts through which morality becomes Christian, and which should refuse to those facts the controlling position which actually belongs to them in making the moral world what. in point of science, it has become. These great facts, let men close their eyes as they will, are the breaking out of sin and the development of its destructive power in the world on the one hand, and the entrance of Jesus, the God-man, and the historical redeeming power proceeding from him on the other. Even philosophical morality, if it would not degenerate into mere unphilosophical abstractions, must make the moral life, considered as historical and concrete, scientifically comprehensible; the concrete historical form of the moral world, however, is, for us at least, before everything else, Christian, just as general history since the time of Christ is itself Christian.
"But, so long as we follow Schleiermacher, and, in explaining the relation between philosophical and theological ethics, make the religious consciousness the opposite of speculation, we shall never escape confusion. The religious consciousness finds its antithesis not in speculation, but in the not religious, and speculation finds its opposite not in piety, but in empirical reflection: empirical reflection and speculation stand in very similar relations to piety. The larger number of theological writers are still of the opinion that the distinction between philosophical and theological ethics lies in the former being the universal, the abstract, the ethics of humanity, and the latter the concrete and specifically Christian, because it rests on history. Thus Schmid and Wuttke. These writers hold that the great facts which form the angles of the Christian theory of the world, namely, sin and redemption by Christ, are, according to their nature, inadequate as the basis of any purely a priori or speculative theory. They lay great stress on this. But why reason thus? At bottom, because they start with the presupposition that there is no other necessity but the necessity of nature. But, in spite of all the confident assertions of the contrary, we cannot doubt that from the specifically Christian consciousness of God, which is the subject treated here, sin and redemption should be deduced as a logical necessity" (Rothe, Theologische Ethik, 1:57).
II. Position Of Ethics In Theology. — "Ethics is a part of systematic theology, which also includes dogmatics. As systematic science, it is to be distinguished from Exegetical and Historical theology. Its office is not merely to show what is the original, and thus normative Christian ethics, nor what has been accepted as such, but rather to teach that Christian ethics is the genuine ethical truth." ... . "On the other hand, ethics must be separated from the various branches of practical theology among which it has often been placed. The two sciences are different both in scope and aim. Ethics embraces the whole Christian idea of Good, and not merely the Church, in which it finds only its culmination, and points away from itself to practical theology, the aim of which is, of course, practical" (Herzog's Real-Encyklop. art. Ethik).
Place in Systematic Theology. — "In ancient times, and down to the Reformation, it was not independent, but held a subordinate place in the science of dogmatics. From the 17th century the two have been separated, and, following P. Ramus, most writers have distinguished between them as between theory and practice. In point of fact, dogmatics has practical importance, and ethics, as the science of the good, has a theory" (Herzog's Real-Encyklop. art. Ethik). "Dogmatics and ethics are as certainly independent disciplinae as God and man are separate beings. Only a point of view like that of Spinoza, in his Ethics, which denies the existence of a real creation and a moral world separate from God, can controvert the independent position of ethics by the side of dogmatics" (idem).
These views are substantially correct. "Christian ethics has a right to an independent position in the sphere of systematic theology, and it and dogmatics are as certainly distinct as are God and man." Still it is none the less true that, God and man conceived to be such as they are, ethics cannot be practically separated from religion. Ethics finds its highest sanctions in religion, as religion must consist largely in prescribing ethics. God and man being presented to the mind, ethics must cover the character of each, and also the relation between them.
III. The Ethical Faculty — Conscience. — There has been a great waste of controversy on the question whether or not conscience is a distinct and separate faculty of the soul, or only an application of the reason or judgment to moral subjects. The truth is that, the mind being a unit, all its faculties are only so many powers of applying itself differently according to demand. A faculty is a power of doing or acting, and a separate faculty is the power of acting in a particular, direction, as distinguished from other directions. The mind is as certainly and distinctly moral as it is intellectual, on imaginative, or volitional. Each of these expresses a distinct power of the one mind.
This faculty of forming moral judgments we call conscience and, if the views now expressed be correct, there is little propriety in discussions respecting the origin of conscience. It has no origin but that of its possessor; it is born with him, though from its nature it is only developed farther on in life, just as reason and imagination are. It has been asked, in reply to this view, whether conscience is not made what it is in any given case by the circumstances about it — In teaching, by the man's own acts — in short, by all the influences brought to bear upon him. We answer it is as to its form but there was first conscience, a moral faculty in the man to be shaped. We concede that neither moral ideas nor ideas of any sort, are innate; lent the capacity, nay, the constitutional necessity for moral ideas is innate.
IV. The Ethical Standard is, of course, according to Christianity, to be found in the Scriptures, but there is still in the sphere of science a wide diversity as to their meaning. But when the standard is supposed to be understood on a given question, and the conscience submits to it, there must follow a perfect self-abnegation; degradation miust result fronc disolbedience. In the case of a conflict between the conscience and the law of the state, for example, in which case the conscience of the lawgiving majority collides with the individual conscience, who shall yield? The answer, from the very nature of the case, is neither. They must fight it out. The state, from its nature, is supreme, and cannot yield; but for the man the conscience is also supreme. The man can only die, or make some other atonement, and thus maintain allegiance to the highest tribunal.
V. History Of Ethics. —
(a.) The sources of knowledge here are Christ, his person and teaching; also the writings of flee apostles, as shown in the New Testament. In the Old Testament the whole contents are authoritative, except as modified or repealed by the New Testament. By the side of these objective sources we have a subjective source in the New Covenant; it is the influence of the Holy Spirit in the faithful. To this Barnabas, Justin, and Clement of Alexandria bear witness. This life of the Spirit in the Church was by-and-by supplanted by the supposed efficacy of ordination, by which the Spirit was bound to the priesthood exclusively. There came now an outward law of the Church to modify the New Testament, and it controlled the ethical consciousness of Christendom until the Reformation.
(b.) Abundance of ethical material is found in the apostolical fathers, who base ethics on individual personality, on marriage, the family, etc. The most effective of the earlier writers was Tertullian (220). His ethical writings were very numerous, such as Concerning Spectacles, Concerning The veiling of virgins, monogamy, penitence, patience, etc. His idea of Christianity was that it was a vast and defiant war power, separated from all the heathen customs of the Old World, and resolved to bring upon that world the judgment of Heaven. Cyprian, with his high claims for the episcopate, exercised great influence on the ethical sphere of the Church. He concentrated the truth of the Church in the episcopacy, in which he saw the vehicle of the Holy Ghost, and the instrument by which unity and the Holy Spirit should be assured to the Church forever. He, carried this idea of the dignity of the episcopate, and the sanctity and sanctifying power of orders, to a ridiculous extent. His doctrine of the efficacy of orders and the dignity of bishops was set over against certain sects — Novatians, Montanists, Donatists — who held that the holiness and unity of the Church demanded that none but holy persons should be members. Augustine fell heir to this controversy. As the Church grew into an earthly kingdom, her ethics took more and more the direction of a so-called higher virtue, whose chief forms were celibacy, poverty, conventual life, and self- imposed torture.
Asceticism not only formed a part of the Church life, it became also the center from which the Christian life was forced to receive rule and law. It determined what was sin, and what was right and good: it dictated to councils; and, getting control of the state, it dispensed at will its spiritual and temporal awards; penitential books in great numbers were compiled, and, bad as the system was, in itself, it became a powerful instrument in bringing to order the various heathen peoples. For the books and writers on these subjects, see Herzog's Real-Encyclop. 4:194, where the relation of asceticism to mysticism is well presented, and it is shown that all these terrible struggles had their root in the consciousness of the infinite demerit of sin, and found their happy solution in Luther's doctrine of faith.
The Reformation not only conquered the prevailing errors b) leading men back to the holy Scriptures, but it established positively the real principle of Christian ethics. It did this through justifying faith which, working by love, creates the possibility of Christian ethics. Love, springing from faith, is the fulfilling of the law. It is ethics in the soul, ready to take shape in noble action. This, working in time community inwardly, proceeds to mold all relations, private and public-marriage, family, church, state, science, art, and culture. The great reformers did not write complete ethical treatises, though they discussed many ethical subjects, such as prayer, oaths, marriage, etc.; but they especially discussed ethics in their explanations of the Decalogue in the Catechism. Indeed, the original form of Christian ethics is the Catechism. See Paul of Eitzen, Ethicae doctrinae, lib. 4 (1751), with later additions; also David Chytrdus, 1600, Virtutum descriptiones in praepta Decalogi distributae (1555); Lambert Daneau (t 1596), Ethices Christianae, lib. 3 (Geneva, 1577); Thomas Venatorius, De Virtuto Christiana, lib. 3; comp. Schwarz, Thomas Venatorius, and the beginnings of Protestant ethics, in connection with the doctrine of justification, Stud. u. Krit. (1850), heft. 1. See also Melancthon, in his Philosophia Moralis (1539), his Enarratio aliquot librorum Aristotelis (1545), and his Phiysica. Add to these Keckerncaun, Systema ethicae tribus liris adornatum (Geneva, 1614); Weigel, Johann Arndt, Valentin Andrea, Spener, Nitzsch, Henry Muller, Scriver, and others, all mystics. The Reformed have also done something in this line, especially G. Voetius, C. Vitringa, H. Witsius, Amesius, Amyraldus (Morale Chretienne, 6 volumes, 1652-1660).
Three men, according to J.A. Dorner (in Herzog's Real-Encyklop. 4:199), form the transition stage to the emancipation of philosophy — Hugo Grotius (De jure pacis et belli), Puffendorf; with his school, and Christian Thomasius. Then come Wolf, Mosheim (in his Moral, 9 volumes), Steinhart, Bahrdt, Buddeus, Chr. Aug. Crusius and J.F. Reuss (Elementa theolegia Moralis, 1767). Even the Roman Catholic Church of the last two centuries has felt the influemlce of the modern philosophy; the following Romanist writers are Wolfians: Luby, Schwarzhuber, Schanza, and Stadler; and the following are Kantians: Wanker, Mutschelle, Hermes, with his disciples Braun, Elvenica, and Vogelsang. Weiller is a Schellingian; independent. and, at the same time, mild and evangelical, pious and rich in thought, are Michael Sailer and Hirscher. Geishuttner is a Fichtian.
Kant's "practical reason," the metaphysics of ethics, occupies in the philosophy of morals a most important place, and, notwithstanding certain defects, it has the immortal honor to have discovered that the most certain of all things is the conscience in its relation to the practical reason, and to have made an end of the eudaemonism of ethics by means of the majesty of the moral law, which he compares with the glory of the starry heavens. To his "categorical imperative" certain rationalistic Kantians adhere; for example, J.W. Schmid, Karl Christian Schmid, and Krug. Some of the supernaturalists,: as Staudlin and Tieftrunk, Ammon and Vogel, incline to Jacobi's philosophy, See also Fichet, System of Ethics (1797). To the Jacobi-Friesian school belong De Wette (Christliche Sittenlehre, 4 bde. 1819-23), Kahler, and Baumgarten-Crusius. To the school of Hegel belong Michelet (System der Philosoph. Moral, Berlin, 1828), L.V. Henning (Princip. der Ethik in historischer Entwicklung, 1824), Vatke, Von der menschl. Freiheit im Verhaltniss zu Suinde und Gnade, 1843); Marheineke (Christliche Moral, 1847), Daub (Christliche Moral, 1840). Of this school, yet more under the influence of Schleiermacher, are Martensen (Syst. Moral Philos. 1841), Wirth (Sys. specul. Ethik, 1841), H. Merz (Syst. Christl. Sittenlehre, nach den Grundsatzen des Protestantismus, etc., 1841). The activity of Schleiermacher in Christian ethics, as in other departments of theology, was immense. From 1819 he published his treatises on "the idea of virtue," "the idea of duty," and on "the relation between the moral law and the law of nature;" also on the idea of what may be "allowed" and the "chief good." His system was not further published by himself, but after his death A. Schweizer edited his Philos. Ethik in 1835, and Jonas his Christl. Sitte in 1843. See also Sartorius, Heil. Liebe; Harless, Christliche Ethik; and especially Rothe, Theolog. Ethik (2d edit. 1867). Rothe (translated by Morrison, Clark's Library, Edinlurgh, 1888, 8vo) seeks to combine Hegel's standpoint of objective knowledge with Schleiermacher's fine moral tact and organizing power, and to excel them both in his highly original method. See also Ritenick's Christl. Stenlehrle (1845); Gelzer, De Religion im Leben, etc. (1854); Schwarz, Evan. Chr. Ethik (1836, 3d ed.); Wendt, Kirchliche Ethik v. Standpunkte d. christl. Fr iheit (2 volumes, 8vo, Leipz. 1864-65); Culman, D. christliche Ethik (Stuttgardt, 1864-66, 2 volumes, 8vo). This sketch of the history of ethics is chiefly condensed from Dorner's article (Ethik) in Herzog, Real-Encyklop. 4:165 sq. (B.H.N.)
Appendix. — It is proper to add to the above a brief account of the history of ethics, or moral philosophy, in England. A survey of this field will be found in Mackintosh, General View of the Progress of Ethical Philosophy (Encyc. Britannica, Prelim. Diss.), separately printed in his Miscellaneous Works (Lond. 1851, 12mo), and in a separate volume (Phila. 1832, 8vo); also in Whewell, Lectures on the Hist. of Moral Philosophy in England (Lond. 1852, 8vo); there is also a summary sketch of the history in Brando, Dictionary of Science, Literature, and Art, 1:821 sq. (Lond. 1865, 3 volumes, 8vo). From these, and other sources we condense the following sketch:
The modern English theories may be classed as selfish or disinterested, according as they found virtue on a selfish or a benevolent principle. The Selfish theory is advocated by Hobbes (1679), who makes self-love the exclusive passion, and considers pleasure the only motive to action (see his Human Nature, his Leviathan, and our article (See Hobbes) ). The same theory is adopted in substance by Jeremy Bentham (t 1832), who assumes Hobbes's principle as self-evident, that every object is indifferent, except for its fitness to produce pleasure or pain, which he declares are the sole motives to action. "Bentham is the most distinguished propounder of the principle of utility as the basis of morals, a principle explained by him as in contrast, first, to asceticism, and next to 'sympathy and antipathy,' by which he meant to describe all those systems, such as the moral-sense theory, that are grounded in internal feeling, instead of a regard to outward consequences. In opposing utility to asceticism, he intended to imply that there was no merit attaching to self-denial as such, and that the infliction of pain or the surrender of pleasure could only be justified by being the means of procuring a greater amount of happiness than was lost" (Chambers, s.v.). See Bentham, Treatise on Morals and Legislation; and our article (See Jeremy Bentham).
Locke (t 1704) denied the existence of a separate faculty for perceiving moral distinctions. In his Essay On The Human Understanding (book 1, chapter 3), he maintains that virtue is approved of, not because it is innate, but because it is profitable. Paley (t 1805) also rejected the doctrine of a moral sense, and held, in substance, the utilitarian theory, maintaining that "virtue is the doing good to mankind, in obedience to the will of God, and for the sake of everlasting happiness" (Moral and Political Philosophy). The utilitarian theory is taught by all the recent English writers of the materialistic school: see James Mill, Analysis of the Human Mind (Lond. 1829; (See James Mill) ); Austin, Province of Jurisprudence determined (2d ed. London, 1861); John Stuart Mill, Dissertations and Discussions (1859); and his Utilitarianism, reprinted from Fraser's Magazine (1862; 2d ed. 1864); Bain, The Emotions and the Will (Lond. 1859); The Senses and the Intelect (Lond. 1855); also his Mental and Moral Science (Lond. 1868, 8vo), where he teaches that conscience is solely the product of education. See also in reply to these writers, The North British Review, September, 1867, art. 1; The British Quarterly January, 1868, art. 6.
Opposed to the utilitarian theory there are two theories, which may be called the instinctive and the rational. The former refers the moral principle to the sensitive or emotive part of man's nature; the latter, to the perception of moral good and evil by the intellect. To the first class belongs Adam Smith (t 1790), whose Theory of the Moral Sentiments (Glasgow, 1759; London, 1790, and often) refers the moral sense to sympathy. His view is thus stated by Mackintosh (Ethical Philosophy, Philadelphia, 1832, page 149): "That mankind are so constituted as to sympathize with each other's feelings, and to feel pleasure in the accordance of these feelings, are the only facts required by Dr. Smith, and they certainly must be granted to him. To adopt the feelings of another is to approve them. When the sentiments of another are such as would be excited in us by the same objects, we approve them as morally prosper. To obtain this accord, it becomes necessary for him who enjoys or suffers to lower his expression of feeling to the point to which the bystander can raise his fellow-feelings, on which are founded all the high virtues of self-denial and self-command; and it is equally necessary for the bystander to raise his sympathy as near as he can to the level of the original feeling. In all unsocial passions, such as anger, we have a divided sympathy between him who feels them and those who are the objects of them. Hence the propriety of extremely moderating them. Pure malice is always to be concealed or disguised, because all sympathy is arrayed against it. In the private passions, where there is only a simple sympathy — that with the original passion — the expression has more liberty. The benevolent affections, where there is a double sympathy — with those who feel them and those who are their objects — are the most agreeable, and may be indulged with the least apprehension of finding no echo in other breasts. Sympathy with the gratitude of those who are benefited by good actions prompts us to consider them as deserving of reward, and forms the sense of merit; as fellow-feeling with the resentment of those who are injured, by crimes leads us to look on them as worthy of punishment, and constitutes the sense of demerit. These sentiments require not only beneficial actions, but benevolent motives for them; being compounded, in the case of merit, of a direct sympathy with the good disposition of the benefactor, and an indirect sympathy with the person benefited; in the opposite case with the precisely opposite sympathies. He who does an act of wrong to another to gratify his own passions must not expect that the spectators, who have none of his undue partiality to his own interest, will enter into his feelings. In such a case he knows that they will pity the person wronged, and be full of indignation against him. When, he is cooled, he adopts the sentiments of others on his own crime, feels shame at the impropriety of his former passion, pity for those who have suffered by him, and a dread of punishment from general and just resentmment. Such are the constituent parts of remorse. Our moral sentiments respecting ourselves arise from those which others feel concerning us. We feel a self-approbation whenever we believe that the general feeling of mankind coincides with that state of mind in which we ourselves were at a given time.
'We suppose ourselves the spectators of our own behavior, and endeavor to imagine what effect it would in this light produce in us.' We must view our own conduct with the eyes of others before we can judge it. The sense of duty arises from putting ourselves in the place of others, and adopting their sentiments respecting our own conduct. In utter solitude there could have been no self-approbation. The rules of morality are a summary of those sentiments, and often beneficially stand in their stead when the self delusion of passion would otherwise hide from us the nonconformity of our state of mind with that which, in the circumstances, can be entered into and approved by impartial bystanders. It is hence that we learn to raise our mind above local or temporary clamor, and to fix our eyes on the surest indications of the general and lasting sentiments of human nature. 'When we approve of any character or action, our sentiments are derived from four sources: first, we sympathize with the motives of the agent; secondly, we enter into the gratitude of those who have been benefited by his actions; thirdly, we observe that his conduct has been agreeable to the general rules by which these two sympathies generally act; and, last of all, when we consider such actions as forming part of a system of behavior which tends to promote the happiness either of the individual or of society, they appear to derive a beauty from this utility not unlike that which we ascribe to any well-contrived machine"' (Theory, 2:304, Edinb. 1801).
Lord Shaftesbury (t 1713) published in 1699 his Inquiry concerning Virtue (also London, 1709, and in his Characteristics), which, according to Mackintosh, "is unquestionably entitled to a place in the first rank of English tracts on moral philosophy, and contains more intimations of an original and important nature on the theory of Ethics than perhaps any preceding work of modern times." This praise rests on the fact that Shaftesbury developed the doctrine of a moral sense. The "most original, as well as important of his suggestions is, that there are certain affections of the mind which, being contemplated by the mind itself through what lie calls a reflex sense, become the objects of love, or the contrary, according to their nature. So approved and loved, they constitute virtue or merit as distinguished from mere goodness, of which there are traces in animals who do not appear to reflect on the state of their own minds, and who seem, therefore, destitute of what he elsewhere calls a moral sense. These statements are, it is true, far too short and vague. He nowhere inquires into the origin of the reflex sense. What is a much more material defect, he makes no attempt to ascertain in what state of mind it consists. We discover only by implication, and by the use of the term sense, that he searches for the fountain of moral sentiments, not in mere reason, where Cudworth and Clarke had vainly sought for it, but in the heart, whence the main branch of them assuredly flows. It should never be forgotten that we owe to these hints the reception into ethical theory of a moral sense, which, whatever may be thought of its origin, or in whatever words it may be described, must always retain its place in such theory as a main principle of our moral nature. His demonstration of the utility of virtue to the individual far surpasses all attempts of the same nature, being founded, not on a calculation of outward advantages or inconveniences, alike uncertain, precarious, and degrading, but on the unshaken foundation of the delight, which is of the very essence of social affection and virtuous sentiment; on the dreadful agony inflicted by all malevolent passions upon every soul that harbors the hellish inmates; on the all-important truth that to love is to be happy, and to hate is to be miserable; that affection is its own reward, and ill-will its own punishment; or, as it has been more simply and more affectingly, as well as with more sacred authority, taught, that to give is more blessed than to receive, and that to love one another is the sum of all human virtue" (Mackintosh, History of Ethical Philosophy, page 95).
Bishop Butler (t 1752) sets forth his moral doctrine in his Sermons (often reprinted), which have been recently published as a text-book by the Reverend J.C. Passmore, under the title Bishop Butler's Ethical Discourses (Philadelphia, 1855, 12mo). He is undoubtedly the greatest of modern English writers on the true nature of ethics. "Mankind," he says, "have various principles of action, some leading directly to the private good, some immediately to the good of the community But the private desires are not self-love, or any form of it; for self-love is the desire of a man's own happiness, whereas the object of an appetite or passion is some outward thing. Self-love seeks things as means of happiness; the private appetites seek things, not as means, but as ends. A man eats from hunger, and drinks from thirst; and though he knows that these acts are necessary to life, that knowledge is not the motive of his conduct. No gratification can imideed lie imagined without a previous desire. If all the particular desires did not exist independently, self-love would have no object to employ itself about, for there would be no happiness, which, by the very supposition of the opponents, is made up of the gratification of various desires. No pursuit could be selfish or interested if there were not satisfactions first gained by appetites which seek their own outward objects without regard to self, which satisfactions compose them mass which is called a man's interest. In contending, therefore, that the benevolent affections are disinterested, no more is claimed for them than must be granted to mere animal appetites and to malevolent passions. Each of these principles alike seeks its own object for the sake simply of obtaining it. Pleasure is the result of the attainment, but no separate part of the aim of the agent. The desire that another person may be gratified seeks that outward object alone, according to the general course of human desire. Resentment is as disinterested as gratitude or pity, but not more so.
Hunger or thirst may lee, as much as the purest benevolence, at variance with self-love. A regard to our own general happiness is not a vice, but in itself an excellent quality. It were well if it prevailed more generally over craying and short-sighted appetites. The weakness of the social affections and the strength of the private desires properly constitute selfishness, a vice utterly at variance with the happiness of him who harbors it, and, as such, condemned by self-love. There are as few who attain the greatest satisfaction to themselves as who do the greatest good to others. It is absurd to say with some that the pleasure of benevolence is selfish because it is felt by self. Understanding and reasoning are acts of self, for no man can think by proxy; but no one ever called them selfish. Why? Evidently because they do not regard self. Precisely the same rule applies to benevolence. Such an argument is a gross confusion of self, as it is a subject of feeling or thought, with self considered as the object of either. It is no more just to refer the private appetites to self-love because they commonly promote happiness, than it would be to refer them to self-hatred in those frequent cases where their gratification obstructs it. But, besides the private or public desires, and besides the calm regard to our own general welfare, there is a principle in man, in its nature supreme over all others. This natural supremacy belongs to the faculty which surveys, approves, or disapproves the several affections of our minds and actions of our lives. As self-love is superior to the private passions, so conscience is superior to the whole of man.
Passion implies nothing but an inclination to follow it, and in that respect passion differs only in force. But no notion can be formed of the principle of reflection or conscience which does not comprehend judgment, direction, superintendency. Authority over all other principles of action is a constituent part of the idea of conscience, and cannot be separated from it. Had it strength as it has right, it would govern the world. The passions would have their power but according to their nature, which is to be subject to conscience. Hence we may understand the purpose at which the ancients, perhaps confusedly, aimed when they laid it down that virtue consisted in following nature. It is neither easy, nor, for the main object of the moralist, important to render the doctrines of the ancients of modern language. If Butler returns to this phrase too often, it was rather from the remains of undistinguishing reverence for antiquity than because he could deem its employment important to his own opinions. The tie which holds together religion and morality is, in the system of Butler, somewhat different from the common representations, but not less close. Conscience, or the faculty of approving or disapproving, necessarily constitutes the bond of union. Setting out from the belief of theism, and combining it, as he had entitled himself to do, with the reality of conscience, he could not avoid discovering that the being who possessed the highest moral qualities is the object of the highest moral affections. He contemplates the Deity through the moral nature of man. In the case of a being who is to be perfectly loved, 'goodness must be the simple actuating principle within him, this being the moral quality which is the immediate object of love.' 'The highest, the adequate object of this affection, is perfect goodness, which, therefore, we are to love with all our heart with all our soul, and with all our strength.' 'We should refer ourselves implicitly to him, and cast ourselves entirely upon him. The whole attention of life should be to obey his commands' (Sermon 13, On the Love of God). Moral distinctions are thus presupposed before a step can be made towards religion: virtue leads to piety; God is to be loved, because goodness is the object of love; and it is only after the mind rises through human morality to divine perfection that all the virtues and duties are seen to hang from the throne of God" (Mackintosh, History of Ethical Philosophy, 116 sq.).
To the same school belong Hutcheson (t 1747), who taught that moral good is simply what the word itself expresses, which is not explicable by any other phrase. From this he argues that moral good must be perceived by a sense, because the senses alone are percipient of simple qualities (see his Inquiry into the Original of our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue, Glasgow, 1725, and often). Hume (Inquiry concerning the Principles of Moral,) asserts, indeed, that general utility constitutes a uniform ground of moral distinctions, and that reason judges of the utility of actions. But he asserts also that we approve of good and disapprove of evil in virtue of a primary sentiment of our nature (distinct from self-love), which he calls benevolence or humanity, but which is identical with conscience, or the moral sense. As to the idea of moral obligation, he makes it simply a judgment of the understanding that happiness flows from obedience to the moral faculty rather than from obedience to self-love. For the doctrines of Mackintosh, we must refer our readers to his admirable sketch (so often cited in this article) of the History of Ethical Philosophy. Of the so-called Rational school, the distinctive characteristic is "that it considers the idea of good to be an a priori conception of reason, in which the idea of obligation is necessarily and essentially implied. As to the nature of the idea itself, two opinions have been held, viz. 1, that it is simple and immediate; 2, that it derives its explanation and authority from some higher notion of the intellect. The most distinguished representatives of the latter opinion are Clarke and Wollaston, while the former has found able advocates in Cudworth, Price, and Stewart" (Brande, 1.c.).
Dr. M'Cosh (American Presbyt. Review, January 1868, art. 1) classes the modern views on ethics in Great Britain into the two schools of Sensational and Rational (or priori), "corresponding to the two schools of philosophy which have divided Europe since Descartes and Locke." Under the latter he classes Cudcworth, Clarke, Coleridge, Reid, Stewart, and Sir W. Hamilton; "none of them, however, except Coleridge, taking up so high a priori grounds as Descartes and Cousin in 'France, or Kant and Hegel in Germany." The Protestants of England, in the main, at this time, according to the same writer, do not agree with those Roman Catholic writers who deny an independent morality apart from the authority of the Church; while, on the other hand, they do not agree with the philosophers who assert not only the independence, but the sufficiency of ethnic or natural morality. (See the article cited for a view of the relations Of the modern sensational doctrine to theology and religion.)
Among American writers, Jonathan Edwards (t 1758) is first to be named in this field. In his Dissertation concerning the End of true Virtue, and that On the End for which. God created the World (both contained in his Works, N.Y. ed. volume 2), he sets forth an ethical theory marked by the subtlety and originality which characterize all his speculations. Mackintosh sums it up as follows: "True virtue, according to him, consists in benevolence, or love to being 'in general,' which he afterwards limits to ‘ intelligent being,' though sentient would have involved a more reasonable limitation. This good will is felt towards a particular being, first, in proportion to his degree of existence (for, says he 'that which is great has more existence, and is farther from nothing, than that which is little'); and, secondly, in proportion to the degree in which that particular being feels benevolence to others. Thus God, having infinitely more existence and benevolence than man, ought to be infinitely more loved; and for the same reason, God must love himself infinitely more than he does all other beings. He can act only from regard to himself, and his end in creation can only be to manifest his whole nature, which is called acting for his own glory." See also, on his ethical theory, the article (See Edwards) in Appleton's Cyclopedia, 7:18; and the Bibliotheca Sacra, April 1853, page 402 sq. There are many excellent manuals, prepared for text-books, by American writers, such as those of Adams, Wayland, Alexander, Haven, Alden, Hopkins, etc., for farther mention of which we have not space. Hickok (System Of Moral Science, 1853, 8vo) treats the subject froan the a priori point of view, and also in its relations to Christian theology, in a very masterly manner.
He makes duty an end in and of itself. The voice of conscience is imperative. "There is an awful sanctuary in every immortal spirit, and man needs nothing more than to exclude all else, and stand alone before himself, to be made conscious of an authority he can neither dethrone nor delude. From its approbation comes self-respect; from its disapprobation comes self-contempt. A stern behest is ever upon him that he do nothing to degrade the real dignity of his spiritual being. He is a law to himself, and has both the judge and executioner within himself, and inseparable from him." "We may call this the imperative of the reason, the constraint of conscience, or the voice of God within him; but, by whatever terms expressed, the real meaning will be that every man has consciously the bond upon him to do that, and that only, which is due to his spiritual excellency." "To be thus worthy of spiritual approbation is the end of all ends; and as worthy of happiness, this many now righteously be given and righteously taken, but not righteously paid as price or claimed as wages. The good is to be worthy, not that he is to get something for it. The highest good — the summum bonum — is worthiness of spiritual approbation" (Moral Science pages 45-49).
Christian ethics, as distinguished from moral philosophby in general, has not received the same attention from English and American writers as from German. The earlier Looks on Casuistry (q.v.) and Cases of Conscience, however, belong under this head. Most of the standard English and American writers commingle philosophical morals with Christian ethics. Butler brings out with clearness the relations of ethics to the Christian religion. Wardlaw's Christian Ethics (Od ed. Lond. 1837, Boston; 5th ed. Lond. 1852) asserts that "the science of morals has no province at all independently of theology, and that it cannot be philosophically discussed except upon theological principles (Boston ed. page 367, note). Watson (Theolog. Instzt. part. 3) treats of Christian ethics under the title "The Morals of Christianity," and denies the is priori method (see Cocker, in Meth. Quart. January 1864). Spalding (Philippians of Christian Morals, Lond. 1843, 8vo) has "recourse both to science as derived from an examination of mcan's moral nature, and to revelation as derived from an examination of the Scriptures."
In France, the orthodox Romaim Catholic writers have generally confirmed themselves to the so-called Moral Theology (q.v.). The Cartesian school (See Des Cartes), cultivated Ethics in the new philosophical spirit; its best representative is Malebranchme. Virtue he defines to be the love of universal order, as it eternally existed in the divine reason, where every created reason contemplates it. Particular duties are but the applications of this love. He abandoned the ancient classification of four cardinal virtues, and for it substituted the modern distinction of duties toward God, men, and ourselves. The French school of Sensualismi, of which Condillac was the head (See Condillac), regarded all intellectual operations, even judgment and volition, as transformed sensations; and Helvetius, applying the theory to morals, held that self-love or interest is the exclusive motor of man, denied disinterested motives, made pleasure the only good, and referred to legislative rewards and punishments as illustrating the whole system of individual action. La Mettrie maintained an atheistic Epicunanism, and Condorcet wished to substitute an empirical education for the ideas and sanctions of religion and morality. The most complete and logical elaboration of the materialism, atheism, and fatalism of the period, which had pleasure for its single aim and law, was given in D'Holbach's Systeme de la nature. Of the later French writers, Jouffroy is perhaps the most important. He gave a peculiar explanation of good and evil. Every thing is good in proportion as it aids in the fulfillment of our destiny. The problem of human destiny, therefore, lies at the foundation of morality. There can be no a prior judgment as to the moral quality of actions, since that is relative to the agent, depending on the influence they may have on the destiny for which he was created. Good, in the case of any particular being, is the fulfillment of its own specific destiny; good, in itself, is the fulfillment of the destiny of all beings; and an interruption in the accomplishment of destiny constitutes evil. His system of Ethics is chiefly laid down in his Cours dam Droit naturel (2 volumes, Par. 1835; a third volume was edited after his death by Damriron, 1842), his most eloquent work, which, besides ethics, treats of psychology and theodicy. Some points are more fully developed in a series of essays, which first appeared in periodicals, and of which subsequently two collections (Melanges philosophiques and Nouveaux melanges philosophiques) were published.
See, besides the authors named in the course of this article, A Sketch of the History of Moral Philosophy, in the introduction to St. Hilaire's translation of Aristotle's Politics (Politique d'Aristote, Paris); Meiners, Allgem. Krit. Geschichte d. alteren u. neueren Ethik (Gottingen, 1801, 2 volumes); Hagrenbach, Encyclop. u. Methodologie, § 92; Cousin, OEuvr. Philosophiques (Paris, 1846-52); Bautain, Morale (Paris, 1842, 2 volumes); Damiron, Cours de Philosophie, volumes 3 and 4 (Paris, 1842); Jouffroy, Introd. to Ethics, transl. by Channing (Boston, 1840, 2 volumes, 8vo); Janet, Hist. des ides morales et politiques (Paris, 1856); Neander, Vorlesungen ui. d. Geschichte d. christl. Ethik (Berl. 1865, 8vo); Neander, Relations of Grecian to Christian Ethics; Christ. Exam. 29:153; 30:145; Bibl. Sac. 1853, 476 sq.; article Ethics in Chambers' Encyclopcedia, and in the Penney Cyclopaedia, both in the interest of the sensational philosophy; North British Review, December 1867, arts. 4; Wuttke, Handbuch der christl. Sittenlehre (2 volumes, 8vo, 1861-62; 2d edit. 1866); Maurice, Moral and Metaphysical Philosophy; Maurice, The Conscience: Lectures on Casuistry (London, 1868). On the nature of evil, (See Evil); (See Sin). On liberty and necessity, (See Will). For the Roman Catholic way of treating ethics, (See Moral Theology).
The Nuttall Encyclopedia 
The science which treats of the distinction between right and wrong and of the moral sense by which they are discriminated.
- ↑ Ethics from Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible
- ↑ Ethics from Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology
- ↑ Ethics from Holman Bible Dictionary
- ↑ Ethics from Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament
- ↑ Ethics from Bridgeway Bible Dictionary
- ↑ Ethics from Webster's Dictionary
- ↑ Ethics from Charles Buck Theological Dictionary
- ↑ Ethics from International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
- ↑ Ethics from Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
- ↑ Ethics from The Nuttall Encyclopedia