Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/618

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
600
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

them the esteem of their fellows, and the latter follow with unequal steps, first showing outward respect and conformity to better ideas and practices, and then making them more or less of realities in their lives.

Denunciation of hypocrisy forms a large part of the "properties" of lay and ecclesiastical moralists who exploit timewarped schemes of salvation. Exercise of moderate reasoning powers would teach them that calculating and persistent hypocrisy has been one of the most powerful factors in the moral advancement of the world. We all aspire higher than we attain, and in the moral domain pretense constantly precedes practice. We begin by appearing to be better than we really are, and the force of habit soon makes an actuality out of what was merely assumption. Hamlet explains this clearly to his mother:

"That monster, Custom, who all sense doth eat
Of habit's devil, is angel yet in this:
That to the use of actions fair and good
He likewise gives a frock or livery
That aptly is put on. Refrain to-night,
And that shall lend a kind of easiness
To the next abstinence—the next more easy—
For use can almost change the stamp of nature,
And either quell the devil or throw him out
With wondrous potency."

Those who pretend to be much better than they are have at least begun the upward development, and recognized the goal to which their faces should be turned.

No man is made worse by simulating goodness. There is every chance that he will be made better by the mere act of simulation.

Beyond doubt, the much-abused Pharisees were powerful promoters of the ethical development of the Jews. Their firm insistence upon higher moral ideas and purer lives could not have been without marked influence upon those around them. If the only motive for doing this was to enhance the esteem in which they were held by the community, it speaks well for their shrewdness in recognizing the drift of public sentiment, and for the community which honored superior goodness.

Jesus Christ's denunciations of them should be given the allowance usually accorded the polemic blasts of a sorely nagged sectary against his rival sectaries. If, indeed, they only cleaned the outside of the cup and platter, they certainly did much better than those who let both outside and inside remain foul. The very denunciation implies that this must have been the rule with those around them. If a man, seeking the applause of his neighbors, begins by furbishing the outside of his platter, in order to be superior to them, there is every probability that he will soon