By adding thought to thought and deed to deed
In ways of good, buildeth his character.
Little by little he accomplishes
His noble ends; in quiet patience works
Daily he builds into his heart and mind
Pure thoughts, high aspirations, selfless deeds.
Until at last the edifice of Truth
Is finished, and behold! there rises and appears
The Temple of Perfection.
There is no surer indication of confusion and decadence in spiritual matters than the severance of morality from religion. "He is a highly moral man, but he is not religious"; "He is exceptionally |good and virtuous, but is not at all spiritual," are common expressions on the lips of large numbers of people who thus regard religion as something quite distinct from goodness, purity, and right-living.
If religion be regarded merely and only as worship combined with adherence to a particular form of faith, then it would be correct to say, "He is a very good man, but is not religious," in some instances, just as it would be equally correct to say, "He is an immoral man, but is very religious," in other instances, for murderers, thieves, and other evil-doers are sometimes devout worshippers and zealous adherents to a creed.
Such a narrowing down of religion, however, would' render much of the Sermon on the Mount superfluous, from a religious point of view, and would lead to the confounding of the means of religion with its end, the idolizing of the letter of religion to the exclusion of the spirit; and this is what actually occurs when morality is severed from religion, and is regarded as something alien and distinct from it.
Religion, however, has a broader significance than this, and the most obscure creed embodies in its ritual some longing human cry for that goodness, that virtue, that morality, which many, with thoughtless judgment, divorce from religion. And is not a life of moral excellence, of good and noble character, of pure-heartedness, the very end and object of religion? Is it not the substance and spirit, of which worship and adherence to a form of faith are but the shadow and letter?
In religion, as in other things, there are the means and the end, the methods and the attainment. Worship, beliefs about God, and adherence to creeds—these are some of the means; goodness, virtue, and morality—these are the end. The methods are many and various, and they are embodied in countless forms of faith; but the end is one—it is moral grandeur!
Thus the moral man, far from being irreligious because he. may not openly profess some form of worship, possesses the substance of religion, diffuses its spirit, has attained its end ; and when the sweet Kernel of religion is found and enjoyed, the shell, protective and necessary in its place, has served its purpose, and may be dispensed with.
Let not this, however, be misunderstood. The "moral" man does not refer to one who has only the outward form of morality, appearing moral in the eyes of the world, but keeping his vices secret; nor does it refer to him whose morality extends only to legal limits; nor to those who are proud of their morality—for pride is the reverse of moral—but to those who delight in purity, who are gracious, gentle, unselfish, and thoughtful, who, being good at heart, pour forth the fragrance of pure thoughts and good deeds. By the "moral" is meant the good, the pure, the noble, and the true-hearted.
A man may call himself Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Mohammedan, Hindu—or by any other name—and be immoral; but if one is pure-hearted, if he is true and noble and beautiful in character—in a word, if he is moral—then he is an inhabitant of the "Holy City" in which, there is "no temple"; he is, by example and influence, a regenerator of mankind; he is one of the company of the Children of Light.
More Articles by This Author James Allen
James Allen was a little-known philosophical writer and poet. He is best recognized for his book, As a Man Thinketh. Allen wrote about complex subjects such as faith, destiny, love, patience, and religion but had the unique ability of explaining these subjects clearly and in a way that is easy to understand. He often wrote about cause and effect, sowing and reaping, as well as overcoming sadness, sorrow, and grief. For more information on the life of James Allen, click here.