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at the same time that the excellences are set forth. This short-coming, no doubt, should for the most part be attributed to the fact, that these old thinkers were without the help which was poured forth upon the world through that Spirit, the highest and best which earth has known. That the scheme of this modern writer is so much more perfect, is due, no doubt, mainly to the fact that she has sought to steep her soul in the truth of Christ. But after making these deductions, to one who institutes such a comparison as we propose, the correspondence is most remarkable between this admirable modern system and its forerunners, and is only to be accounted for on the supposition that, in every age and clime, the Godinspired human heart, though lisping, yet speaks with unvarying and infallible voice. The three sages of antiquity we are to pass in review are the Roman Cicero, the Greek Aristotle, the Chinese Confucius.
We begin with Cicero, whose assassination occurred in the year 43 B. C.
With the weaknesses of Cicero in practical life we have here nothing to do. We are to deal with him only as a moralist and philosopher. He professed to be eclectic, and borrowed from his great predecessors ; but so truly did he sift their excellences from the defects, and so clearly did he emphasize the former, that there is hardly another ancient writer who furnishes instruction so pure from blemish, so unembarrassed by fruitless mysticism or speculation, so nearly even with the highest standards of the Christian world. Citations will be made to illustrate how far the best modern theories were anticipated by this admirable Gentile sage. We regret that we must confine ourselves to such meagre illustration of his philosophy.
Of the truth that there is a moral law, there is no finer declaration in Cicero than the following passage, if indeed it has ever been surpassed.* It is put into the mouth of Lælius, in answer to Philus, a disputant who argues, something in the style of Hume, against the existence of a divine law which man may apprehend through his moral sense. But, although Cicero does not here speak in his proper person, the elo
* De Repub. III. 22. (The passage is preserved in a quotation of Lactantius.)
quent passage is entirely in harmony with his other teachings. Speaking of the moral law, Lælius says it is “universal, unchangeable, eternal, whose commands urge us to duty, whose prohibitions restrain us from evil. Whether it enjoins or forbids, the good respect its injunctions and the wicked treat them with indifference. This law cannot be contradicted by any other law. It needs no other expositor and interpreter than our own conscience. It is not one thing at Rome and another at Athens, - one thing to-day, and another to-morrow,
- but in all times and nations this universal law must forever reign eternal and imperishable. It is the sovereign master and emperor of all beings. God himself is its author and enforcer. He who does not obey it flies from himself, and does violence to the very nature of man.” In another noble treatise Cicero makes for all human law a foundation in eternal justice. “Our race," it is said, “is born for justice; and equity and law are not constituted by opinion, but by nature. ... Whatever definition is given of man is universally applicable. There is no dissimilarity in kind.” Thus Cicero declares that there is a moral law, and that it is found in the universal conscience. That it can be obeyed he does not question. A discussion as to the freedom of the human will to choose between good and evil is contained in the treatise “ De Fato," where Cicero takes the ground that it is not to be doubted.
Why should the moral law be obeyed, - virtue chosen, and vice avoided ? That virtue is the only good is again and again asserted. From the first Paradox, which is devoted to the especial examination of this matter, we select this : “What is right, honorable, and in accordance with virtue, that alone I esteem the bonum,” † or good worthy to be chosen. Speaking of the opinion that pleasure or happiness is the summum bonum, he says, indignantly, “ It seems to me the assertion of brutes, not of men.” | In the vision of Scipio, so far from being influenced by any desire for reward, “ Virtue herself," it is declared, “ ought to attract you by her own charms to true glory.” In discussing this point, Cicero contrasts most
* De Legibus, I. 10.
| Paradoxa I. 1.
favorably with certain modern thinkers, of whom Paley is a prominent representative, who declare that whatever is expedient is right. Cicero most distinctly puts the honestum, the intrinsically noble, before the utile, the expedient, taking pains to give a thorough discussion of the matter in the “De Officiis,” arriving at the most admirable conclusions. “It does not admit of question,” he says, “ that expediency can never compare with virtue." * The general tenor of Cicero's teaching is that virtue, and virtue alone, is the summum bonum. In the Fifth Tusculan, however, which discusses the question whether virtue be sufficient for a happy life, it must be confessed that virtue is rather postponed to happiness. “A good man,” it is said,f" refers everything to living happily.” Such a declaration, however, does not accord well with the general tone of Cicero. Indeed, in several of the Tusculans he seems to fall a little short of his usual lofty standard ; and it is difficult to see how Erasmus, after ascribing to these pieces every conceivable excellence, could declare his conviction that the author was directly inspired from heaven. There are other treatises of the Roman which would justify even so high eulogium as this; but in portions of the Tusculans the bitter affliction in the midst of which they were composed appears to have obscured somewhat the moral and spiritual vision of the sage, imparting to his thought too much of Stoic severity.
In its general features, then, we see that this modern ethical theory was anticipated in the ancient world by Cicero. It is his teaching that there is a moral law; that man finds that law in his conscience; that he has the power to obey it. The motive to obedience — though here, as was noticed, there is some inconsistency — is not happiness, or reward of any kind. Virtue itself is the highest good, and to be sought for itself. To proceed now from these general features to the particulars of Cicero's ethical scheme.
As to religious duty. Though we find vague speculations with reference to the stars being gods, and the universe being a divinity,s such views do not appear to have taken any deep hold upon his mind. Nor can we take his employment
* De Off. III. 3.
| Smith's Dict., Art. Cicero, p. 737.
De Natura Deorum, II.
of the plural, and alluding by name to the gods of the Roman Pantheon, to mean more than that he sought to accommodate himself, perhaps indeed unjustifiably, to the popular belief. That he was in reality a monotheist is most evident. By common consent, Scipio is made to argue that there is “ one universal Monarch in heaven,” “ King and Father of all creatures,” and “the whole universe is animated by a single Mind.” . No fulsome descriptions of the Deity, indeed, are to be encountered; but who does not prefer such modest treatment of this theme as the following : “ If you ask me what God is, or what his nature is, I shall follow the example of Simonides, who, when Hiero asked him the same question, demanded a day to consider it. When Hiero repeated the question on the morrow, Simonides demanded two days more. When, after that, he continued to double the number of days, and the wondering Hiero asked why he did so, he replied, • Because the longer I think about it, the more mysterious it seems to me.'” † Respecting the duty of prayer, though the inculcation of it has less prominence than we should judge proper, yet Cicero practised it, and enjoined it, and laid down rules respecting it. In a later generation, there were thinkers among the Romans by whom duties of this sort were dwelt on with more emphasis. In Seneca, for instance, the style often burns out from cool argument or meditation into a warmer strain, and sometimes flashes into reverent apostrophe and ejaculation. This is far less common in Cicero, yet as to the matter of prayer he is not silent. It is laid down that God must be approached with a pure heart; $ and a saying of Pythagoras is approvingly quoted, that “then chiefly do piety and religion flourish, when we are occupied in divine services." $ There is something impressive, too, in the passage where Cicero, Atticus, and Quintus, meeting to engage in the high discussions embodied in the treatise “ De Legibus,” upon the little shadowed islet at Arpinum, where the cool Fibrenus poured itself past the green shore into the bosom of the Liris, open their converse with a solemn though brief invocation. ||
As to social duties, a most important place among the vir
* De Repub. I. 36.
De Leg. II. 10.
† De Nat. Deor. I. 22.
|| Ibid. 3.
tues is assigned to justice and beneficence, which consist in studying the welfare of those around us. A precept of Plato concerning disinterested benevolence is approvingly quoted,*
“ that we should so look at the advantage of our fellowcitizens as to have reference to that in whatever we do, forgetting ourselves.” Nor was there any narrowness in the humanity of Cicero. It was a catholic principle, embracing not simply the little world upon the seven hills and its dependencies, but the whole earth. “ They who say that a regard ought to be had to fellow-citizens, but deny it to foreigners, break up the common society of the human race, which being withdrawn, beneficence, liberality, goodness, justice, are utterly abolished.” † This one sentence, finally, will exhibit the general spirit of Cicero: “Men are created for the sake of men, that they may mutually do good to one another." I
As to our personal duties, chastity and temperance are specially enjoined, and the whole tenor of Cicero's teaching is to discourage sensuality. Here, too, is the clear perception, sometimes thought to belong only to Christians, that the inmost heart must be kept pure, since guilt lies in the intention back of the deed. " The guilt lies in the very hesitation, even if the act be not perpetrated. . . . . If we could conceal it from all gods and men, yet nothing should be done avariciously, unjustly, or licentiously.” Ş The nobleness of the human soul and its eternal destiny are set forth with most impressive emphasis. Here, indeed, the language of this admirable sage is pervaded with real sublimity. He himself has said, “ There never was a great man without divine inspiration." || Certainly into the breast of Cicero had been breathed a glowing God-sent fire, which, burning forth upon the page, kindles the reader even to-day into reverent enthusiasm. Here and there, indeed, a slight tone of hesitation may be detected when dealing with this mysterious theme; but for the most part the Roman is lofty and confident. We have noted, as appearing to have especial beauty and emphasis, passages in the treatises on “ Friendship,” “Old Age," and, most of all, in that most solemnly beautiful memorial of the Roman mind, the “ Vision
| Ibid. I. 7.
* De Offic. I. 25.
† Ibid. III. 6. Ibid. III. 8.
|| De Nat. Deor. II. 66. VOL. LXXIII. 5TH S. VOL. XI. NO. II.