To all who felt this need Christianity offered high moral ideals, and a tremendous moral enthusiasm, in its devotion to a beloved leader, in its emphasis upon the ethical possibilities of the meanest, and in its faith in a future life of blessedness for the righteous.
It is useful, therefore, in a summary sketch of asceticism, to begin with the facts as they can be observed among less advanced races, or as mere survivals among people who have reached the level of genuine moral reflection; and from this basis to proceed to a consideration of self-denial consciously pursued as a method of ethical perfection.
The medieval theologians followed in the same line, recognizing all the precepts of the Decalogue as moral precepts de lege naturae, though the law of the Sabbath is not of the law of nature, in so far as it prescribes a determinate day of rest (Thomas, summa, Ima IIaae, qu.
The ostensible object of the French expedition to Egypt was to reinstate the authority of the Sublime Porte, and suppress the Mamelukes; and in the proclamation printed with the Arabic types brought from the Propaganda press, and issued shortly after the taking of Alexandria, Bonaparte declared that he reverenced the prophet Mahomet and the Koran far more than the Mamelukes reverenced either, and argued that all men were equal except so far as they were distinguished by their intellectual and moral excellences, of neither of which the Mamelukes had any great share.
Bain, Mental Science, pp. 208, 313 and app. 29, 65, 88, 89; Moral Science, pp. 639 seq.; Sir L.
Moreover, the belief that the justice of punishment depends upon the responsibility of the criminal for his past offences and the admission of the moral consciousness that his previous wrong-doing was freely chosen carries with it, so it is argued, consequences which the libertarian moralist might be willing to accept with reluctance.
In the first sense the conception is similar to that of fate; this assumes a moral character as nemesis, or the inevitable penalty of transgression.
A much more favourable judgment must be given upon the short Treatise on eternal and immutable Morality, which deserves to be read by those who are interested in the historical development of British moral philosophy.
This attitude of indifference to real knowledge passed in the younger and less reputable generation into a corroding moral scepticism which recognized no good but pleasure and no right but might.
In 1785 when Dugald Stewart succeeded Ferguson in the Edinburgh chair of moral philosophy, Playfair succeeded the former in that of mathematics.