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mental basis of all progress and moral development.”
The following beautiful passage from Mencius, a famous disciple, but who only echoed his master, is entirely in the spirit of Confucianism : “ There is an honor of Heaven, as well as honors conferred by men. Humanity, justice, righteousness, fidelity, - the delight one feels in practising these virtues without ceasing, is what constitutes the dignity of Heaven." | The same disciple thus maintains the dignity of that human nature which he would have enriched with heavenly treasures. To such a degree is it noble, that, “if a man has not a compassionate heart, he is not a man. If he is not ashamed of his own vices, and does not feel aversion for those of others, he is not a man. If he has not a recognition of the true and false, of the just and the unjust, he is not a man. Men have these principles in them, as they have their limbs; and if we all know how to develop them, and cause them to bear fruit, they will be like fire which begins to burn, like a fountain which begins to leap.” 1
Among the blemishes which disfigure this system, we find a most extravagant respect paid to ancestors. The duty of the son to the father is so exaggerated, as to override every other consideration. § A disciple argues that one year is enough to remain in mourning for a parent; but Confucius will not allow less than three as a sufficient time to be spent in the appropriate observances, which were very burdensome. || A noteworthy blemish of Confucianism is the extravagant attention paid to rites and ceremonies, many of them of the most trivial character. Confucius magnified the importance of these in an absurd degree, and practised and enjoined them to an extent extraordinary in a teacher so amiable, and endowed with so much lofty wisdom. It falls short of the highest standard, moreover, in that it teaches that injuries are not to be paid with benefits. “ Hatred and injury are to be paid with justice, and benefits with benefits.” | That Confucius believed in the immortality of the human soul is plain. Speaking of ancestors, he says: “ They are everywhere about us, –
* Ta Hio, I. 6.
† Mencius, II. V. 16.
| Ibid. I. III. 6.
on our left, on our right; they surround us on every side.” * The observance of rites to these disembodied spirits is very often prescribed; but, in giving his rules of conduct, little reference is made to the future state. The silence of this scheme as to the department of religious obligation has been alluded to; and if we admit, with the author of “ Intuitive Morals,” that ethics is properly concerned with that subject, we must confess that this system, like that of Aristotle, with all its beauty and tenderness, is but a headless trunk, most wanting in the most vital part.
Yet, after making all these deductions, we must allow to Confucius a spirit full of gentleness, meekness, and love; and his system, though incomplete, is yet, in great part, founded deep upon eternal truth, and sublime with moral beauty. The love which filled his heart, and which hourly almost appears to have been the theme of his discourse, flowed forth in no stinted measure, and within no narrow limits, but was freely entertained toward high and low. His instructions were often addressed to men in power, not, however, because he yielded to them any improper deference, but simply for the reason that the great hold positions of influence, in which the example of a good life may be most effective in bringing humbler men to practise goodness. A good prince will be the father and mother of his people, according to the Confucian idea, and it is in this affectionate relation that rulers are constantly urged to stand toward their subjects. To ships that sail upon those Eastern seas, the land near by, from plantations that dapple a thousand sunny leagues, from groves of sandalwood and camphor, exhales a rich aroma ; but a sweeter and holier tribute, a more celestial incense, did this land offer, when it gave forth a faith so weak and tender, — a faith whose substance, in the language of its disciples, is “ to have purity of heart, and to love our neighbor as ourselves."
We close our examination of these systems with the hope that, although the illustration in the case of each one has been necessarily brief and meagre, enough has been said to give an idea of the ethics of these thinkers of antiquity. The moral
* Tchoung Young, XVI. 3. VOL. LXXIII. - 5TH S. VOL. XI. NO. II.
† Lun Yu, IV. 15.
scheme, which probably all would admit to be as pure and high as any that has been put forth in modern times, was, as we have seen, in many of its most essential features, anticipated by the three sages we have been studying. They agree with one another and with us in asserting the existence of a fundamental moral law, respecting right and wrong, which man is under obligation to obey. They believe that man universally has within himself a faculty by means of which this law may be apprehended. They believe that the will of man is free to choose between good and evil. They saw, moreover, the beauty of virtue, and reached the spiritual height from which the sublime truth is beheld, that virtue must be sought for her own sake; that to her there is nothing ulterior; no happiness can be the summum bonum; nobleness must be chosen for itself alone, or the choice is ignoble. In the case of Cicero, it appears that, although occasionally falling a little short of this high doctrine, the general tenor of his teaching is of this sort. In the case of Aristotle, if we rightly define the evdaipovía which he proposes as the good, it is nobleness, rather than happiness, which he sets forth as to ăryalov. In the case of Confucius, although even a matter of such moment as this, in his singularly practical and sublunary scheme, seems to have been too abstruse for long consideration, yet we do find it distinctly set forth, that to acquire virtue is before everything, and that all profit to be obtained through it, of every sort, is to be esteemed of secondary importance.
We see, then, that these general features of the modern theory are simply reproductions of an ancient philosophy. With regard to the special departments of duty, and the particular obligations included in each, we have seen how, while social and personal duty were not overlooked, religious obligation was either almost entirely neglected, as by Aristotle and Confucius, or made of insufficient moment, as by Cicero. In respect to this matter, however, there is room for argument whether ethics is directly concerned with this subject. We do not praise or pray, or give thanks, so much because we ought, as because our hearts prompt the outpouring. True worship is spontaneous, - not a matter of duty. That there
207 should be true prayer when there is no devout emotion in the soul, is as impossible as that there should be flame without fuel. It is a matter of duty, indeed, that we should so live as to dispose the heart toward prayer; but the prayer itself, to be true, must flow from feelings not directly under the control of the will, and therefore worship is only indirectly a matter of duty. The absence of devoutness in these Gentile sages with whom we have been occupied shows a coldness of the spirit, but the fault is in their piety rather than their ethics.
Mrs. Child, in her “Progress of Religious Ideas,” declares : “ While my mind was yet in its youth, I was offended at the manner in which Christian writers usually describe other religions; for I observed that they habitually covered apparent contradictions and absurdities in Jewish and Christian writings with a veil of allegories and mystical interpretation, while the records of all other religions were unscrupulously analyzed, or contemptuously described as childish fables' or 'filthy superstitions.”' The want of candor here alluded to is a vice which too often characterizes our consideration of Gentile systems of belief; it is encouraging to note the more generous spirit which here and there begins to show itself. Christendom in former ages has set us an example of candor, which, in spite of the improvement in our criticism here and there to be noticed, we yet fall short of in a considerable measure.
The old Father Lactantius, after quoting Seneca, exclaims, “ How many things does this Heathen speak of God like one of us?” | Dean Milman calls attention to the courtesy and respect with which the Græco-Arabian philosophers were treated by the Schoolmen contemporary with them. The scholastic Ockham utters the generous sentiment, that the philosophers who were Pagans, and yet great and good men, were certainly Christians at heart, since every man who honestly tries to live according to reason must find out the truth; and Roger Bacon places Seneca and Aristotle high in the ethical scale above his contemporaries. $ This generous spirit lasted until the Reformation, when at last, in the semi-Pagan Platonists of the era of Leo X., it became excessive, and contributed to the great upturning. Even then candor did not depart at once from the Church. Erasmus, as we have seen, could ascribe inspiration to Cicero, and Zwinglius and other contemporaries showed a similar liberality. To this day, in the Eastern Church, as we are told by Stanley, along the porticos of the temples may be seen the figures of Gentile poets and philosophers, who are held to have been providential pioneers for the labors of the Christian saints. But the narrowness to which Mrs. Child alludes, is too generally characteristic of the treatment accorded to those beyond our pale. Too often, the loftiest Gentile schemes are flippantly dismissed, as inadequate to any useful purpose, if not mere “ childish fable or filthy superstition.”
† Divin. Instit. Lib. I. cap. 5.
* Vol. I. p. vii. (Preface).
Certainly, in the speculations with which we have been occupied, the blemishes are not so many or so marked as to cancel their usefulness. It is impossible to dwell upon them without feeling that the mind is acquiring something of composure and dignity, - an armor to defend it against the assaults of the world, - a fire of enthusiasm to urge it forward in benevolence and the pursuit of noble things. In the case of any of these majestic thinkers, truly can the student say, employing the language of Seneca respecting a favorite author : “In whatever condition of mind I may be when I read that man's writings, I tell you I am ready to challenge all manner of mischances; I am ready to cry out, “Why do you delay, 0 Fortune? Come on! you see one who is prepared for you'; .. . I long for something to overcome, something that shall try my patience."*
* Epist. LXIV. 2.