Page images


Discourses of Socrates on the duties of children to parents, and on fraternal affection.

1 Xenophon has recorded a conversation between Socrates and his son, on the patience that children ought to exercise towards the faults of their parents; and another with Cherecrates, the brother of Cherephon, on fraternal friendship, which ought to be in possession of every family that now exists, or shall exist in our world.

2 Socrates observing his eldest son Lamprocles in a violent passion with his mother, opened a discourse with him as follows:-"Come hither, son," said he; "have you never heard of men who are called ungrateful?" "Yes, frequently," answered the youth. "And what is ingratitude ?" demanded Socrates. "It is to receive a kindness," said Lamprocles, "without making a proper return, when there is a favorable opportunity." "Ingratitude is therefore a species of injustice," said Socrates. "I should think so," answered Lamprocles.

3 "If then," pursued Socrates, " ingratitude be injustice, does it not follow, that the degree of it must be proportionate to the magnitude of the favors which have been received?" Lamprocles admitted the inference; and Socrates thus pursued his interrogations.

4 "Can there subsist higher obligations than those which children owe to their parents, from whom life is derived and supported, and by whose good offices it is rendered honorable, useful and happy ?" "I acknowledge the truth of what you say," replied Lamprocles; "but who could suffer, without resentment, the ill humors of such a mother as I have?" "What strange thing has she done to you?" said Socrates.

5" She has a tongue," replied Lamprocles, "that no mortal can bear." "How much more," said Socrates, "has she endured from your wrangling, fretfulness, and incessant cries, in the period of infancy! What anxieties has she suffered from the levities, capriciousness and follies of your childhood and youth! What affliction has she felt, what toil and watching has she sustained in your illnesses! These, and various other powerful motives to filial duty and gratitude, have been recognised by the legislators of our republic.

6" For, if any one be disrespectful to his parents, he is not permitted to enjoy any post of trust or honor. Let no one discover the contempt with which you have treated her;

for the world will condemn and abandon you for such behaviour. And if it be even suspected that you repay with ingratitude the good offices of your parents, you will inevitably forego the kindness of others; because no man will suppose that you have a heart to requite either his favors or his friendship."

7 Cherephon and Cherecrates having quarrelled with each other, Socrates, their common friend, was solicitous to restore amity between them. Meeting, therefore, with Cherecrates, he thus accosted him: "Is not friendship the sweetest solace in adversity, and the greatest enhancement of the blessings of prosperity ?" "Certainly it is," replied Cherecrates; "because our sorrows are diminished and our joys increased by sympathetic participation."

8 "Amongst whom, then, must we look for a friend?" said Socrates. "Would you search among strangers? They cannot be interested about you. Amongst your rivals? They have an interest in opposition to yours. Amongst those who are much older or younger than yourself? Their feelings and pursuits will be widely different from yours. Are there not, then, some circumstances favorable, and others essential, to the formation of friendship ?” "Undoubtedly there are," answered Cherecrates.

9"May we not enumerate," continued Socrates, "amongst the circumstances favorable to friendship, long acquaintance, common connections, similitude of age and union of interest ?" "I acknowledge, "said Cherecrates, "the powerful influence of these circumstances; but they may subsist, and yet others be wanting, that are essential to mutual amity."

10 "And what," said Socrates, "are those essentials which are wanting in Cherephon ?" "He has forfeited my esteem and attachment," answered Cherecrates. "And has he also forfeited the esteem and attachment of the rest of mankind?" continued Socrates. "Is he devoid of benevolence, generosity, gratitude, and other social affections ?"

11 Far be it from me," cried Cherecrates, "to lay so heavy a charge upon him: his conduct to others is, I believe, irreproachable; and it wounds me the more that he should single me out as the object of his unkindness."

12 "If you desire that one of your neighbors should invite you to his feast, what course would you take?" "I would first invite him to mine." "And how would you induce him to take the charge of your affairs, when you are

on a journey?" "I should be forward to do the same good office to him in his absence."

13 "If you be solicitous to remove a prejudice which he may have received against you, how would you then behave towards him?" "I should endeavor to convince him by my looks, words and actions, that such prejudice was ill founded." "And, if he appeared inclined to reconciliation, would you reproach him with the injustice he had done you?” "No," answered Cherecrates; "I would repeat no griev

[merged small][ocr errors]

14 "Delay not, therefore, my Cherecrates, to do what I advise; use your endeavor to appease your brother; nor doubt his readiness to return your love."-" But suppose, my Socrates, when I have acted as you advise, my brother should behave no better than he has done ?"-"Should it

prove so, Cherecrates, what other harm can arise to you from it, than that of having shown yourself a good man, and a good brother to one, whose badness of temper makes him undeserving of your regard?

15 "But, I have no apprehension of so unfavorable an issue to this matter: rather, when your brother shall see it your intention to conquer by courtesy, he himself will strive to excel in so noble a contest. As it is, nothing can be more deplorable than your present situation; it being no more than if these hands, ordained of God for mutual assistance, should so far forget their office as to impede each other:-But no situation can hinder brothers, who live in amity, from rendering one another the most essential services."


Conversation between Socrates and Critobulus, on the art of procuring the friendship of good men.

1 "Suppose," said Socrates, "we wanted to choose a worthy friend, what should be our method of proceeding? Should we not beware of one much addicted to intemperance and dissipation? or of a lazy disposition? Since enslaved to such vices, no man would be of use, either to himself, or any other." "Certainly."

2 "And if there was a person, provident indeed enough, but withal so covetous, as never to be content unless he had the advantage of you on every occasion ?"—"I would think of him worse than the other."-"But what do you say to the man, Critobulus, who is so much bent on making a fortune as to mind nothing but what serves to that end ?”—“


leave him to himself; since it is sure he will never be of use other."

to any

[ocr errors]

3"But what if the man were free from these defects; and had only such a selfishness belonging to him, as made him always ready to receive favors, but not at all solicitous about returning any?"

"But, my

4"Why certainly," replied Critobulus, "no person would wish to have any thing to say to such a one:Socrates," continued he, "since none of these people will serve our purpose, show me, I desire you, what sort of man he must be whom we should endeavor to make a friend of?"

5 "I suppose," said Socrates, "he should be the very reverse of all we have been saying:-moderate in his pleasuresa strict observer of his word-fair and open in all his dealings; and who will not suffer even his friend to surpass him in generosity; so that all are gainers with whom he hath to do."

6 "But how shall we find such a one," said Critobulus; "or make trial of those virtues and vices, without running some hazard by the experiment? And when we have found out a man whom we judge proper to make a friend of; what means may we use to engage his affection?"

7"Not hunt him down, Critobulus, as we do hares; nor catch him by stratagem, as we do birds; neither are we to seize him by force, as we are wont to do our enemies; for it would be an arduous task to make a man your friend in spite of inclination."

8 "You would insinuate, then, my Socrates, that in order to obtain a virtuous friend, we must endeavor, first of all, to be ourselves virtuous ?"

9 "Why, can you suppose, Critobulus, that a bad man can gain the affection of a good one? Make yourself in the first place a virtuous man, and then boldly set yourself to gain the affection of the virtuous. Set yourself, therefore, diligently to the attainment of every virtue; and you will find on experience, that no one of them whatsoever but will flourish and gain strength, when properly exercised. This is the counsel I have to give you, my Critobulus."




Abridgment of Seneca's discourse on Beneficence.

He that would know all things, let him read Seneca; the most lively describer of public vices and manners, and the smartest reprehender of them.-Lactantius.

Next to the gospel itself, I do look upon Seneca's Morals, as the most sovereign remedy against the miseries of human nature.-L'Estrange.

1 AN obstinate goodness overcomes an ill disposition, as a barren soil is made fruitful by care and tillage. But let a man be never so ungrateful or inhuman, he shall never destroy the satisfaction of my having done a good office.

2 But what if others will be wicked? does it follow that we must be so too? If others will be ungrateful, must we therefore be inhuman? To give and to lose, is nothing; but to lose and to give still, is the part of a great mind. And the other's in effect, is the greater loss; for the one does but lose his benefit, and the other loses himself. The light shines upon the profane and sacrilegious as well as upon the righteous. The mariner puts to sea again after a wreck.

3 An illustrious mind does not propose the profit of a good office, but the duty. If the world be wicked, we should yet persevere in well-doing, even among evil men. I had rather never receive a kindness than never bestow one: not to return a benefit is the greater sin, but not to confer it is the earlier.

4 We cannot propose to ourselves a more glorious example than that of the Almighty, who neither needs nor expects any thing from us; and yet he is continually showering down and distributing his mercies and his grace among us, not only for our necessities, but also for our delights; as fruits and seasons, rain and sunshine, veins of water and of metal; and all this to the wicked as well as to the good, and without any other end than the common benefit of the receivers.

5 With what face then can we be mercenary one to another, that have received all things from Divine Providence gratis? It is a common saying, "I gave such or such a man so much money, I would I had thrown it into the sea:" and yet the merchant trades again after a piracy, and the banker ventures afresh after a bad security.

6 He that will do no good offices after a disappointment, must stand still, and do just nothing at all. The plow goes

« PreviousContinue »