There is a striking resemblance between the concept of sin inspired by knowledge of the laws of our nature and the Christian concept, although they spring from quite different origins. One is the product of a purely rational and intellectual operation; the other is based on intuition, inspiration and divine revelation. Yet the results of such different mental processes are, in some ways, almost identical. Both codes of conduct which derive from them ordain the same virtues and proscribe the same vices.
The morality of the Gospel is far from being a visionary's dream. Neither is it simply a pious practice which anyone is free to observe or to ignore. Its function is not, as Voltaire thought, to prevent the poor from killing the rich and to allow the latter to sleep peacefully in their beds. On the contrary, it represents a profound necessity of our being. It is, in fact, like those rules of conduct deduced from the fundamental laws of human nature, the indispensable condition for the survival of the individual and his descendants and for his spiritual development.
Nevertheless, it cannot, by itself alone, assure this survival. Religious faith cannot be the only guide of human conduct in the natural order. It has not succeeded in forming men and women capable of completely fulfilling their functions. We must render to God the things which are God's and to Caesar the things which are Caesar's. Science is as necessary as religion and reason as necessary as feeling. Biological morality is, in fact, more severe than the decalogue. Only by putting into practice the rules of conduct imposed by the laws of life are the evangelical virtues rendered possible.
Christian morality has, indeed, never claimed the exclusive guidance of men in the natural order. The success of life does not depend only on moral factors.
Yet even perfect submission to the rules imposed by the structure of our own bodies and minds, as well as to those of Christian morality, will not save us from suffering. The plan of the universe is not what human intelligence desires it to be; to behave ourselves rationally will not protect us from misfortune. Each individual contains in himself the whole past of the race; he has the defects as well as the qualities of his ancestors. He is born more or less burdened with hereditary taints. He suffers from an original sin whose weight he will carry all his life. This sin does not weigh equally heavily on all. Among the children of the same parents, it sometimes crushes one while remaining hardly perceptible in the others. The defects of some far-off ancestor may suddenly reappear after several generations and bring suffering to the innocent.
Not only do we suffer from hereditary defects but each one of us is exposed to the inevitable risks of his environment. These risks range from vicissitudes of climate to the jealousy and wickedness of his neighbors. Calamities fall alike on the just and the unjust but they show a certain preference for the ignorant, the lazy, the intemperate and the feeble. The will to behave according to the laws of life does not always insure that we shall be happy, for our knowledge of the order of the world is still rudimentary.
Human suffering could be greatly diminished by the intelligent application of science: in particular by eugenism and psychophysiology. Science is capable of giving man certain aids which dispose him to do good and avoid evil. It is imperative that society should make a systematic effort to alter those customs and institutions which violate the laws of life. Of course we shall never be able to suppress sorrows, worries, certain hereditary disease, old age and death. The good and the bad, criminals and saints alike, are exposed to the calamities inherent in the human condition. But these calamities wear a different face according to whether they knock at the door of the just, or that of the idle, the proud or the perverse. Before the just, their aspect loses its terror. He who completely fulfills the vocation of man, who obeys all the laws of life and particularly the law of spiritual development, often receives nervous resistance and mental balance as a reward. Sometimes he receives an ineffable peace, that peace which life gives to her elect as God gives His grace. Against that peace, misfortune can never prevail; in tribulations, in inevitable suffering and even in the anguish of dying it accompanies and sustains those who have been unflinchingly faithful to tie silent behests of life.