Page images
PDF
EPUB

tead Before our political seceship, more of jealous Plity, than in

be formed; it is here that that which is appropriately and distinctively American is most rapidly developing itself – our society and institutions are now peculiarly democratic and less affected by influences of the old world than those in the States peopled before our political severance from Europe — and here there is more a feeling of citizenship, more of jealous pride in being American, more of the distinctive features of nationality, than in any other part of the Union. On us then, more particularly, on the young men of the Western Colleges, and others who shall emigrate hither, does this responsibility rest. You, young men, who have the flower and the prime and the strength of life before you, and have this central, teeming, glowing West for the scene of your labors, you, I say, hold in your hands the destinies of a world for ages yet to come, of a world beyond comparison greater than past ages have ever witnessed, and destined to a glory or a wretchedness, which will throw all past history in the shade, according as you lay the forming hand on the fused and gushing tide of human nature which is billowing around you. Men to whom such responsibilities are entrusted, should be men of thoughtful, upright, thoroughly furnished minds, men at the farthest possible remove from rashness, selfishness, and superficial views--they should have the steadiness, the religiousness, the far-reaching forecast of the pilgrim fathers of New England, united with the buoyancy, the enterprise, the sprightly, adventurous fearlessness of the pioneers of the West.

Religion and the laws God and your country-let these be the rule of your conduct, the object of your labors—hold on upon the great principles of eternal right-never consent that they be set aside for a moment for the sake of more speedily accomplishing any object, however immediately desirable, a fault too prevalent among our impatient and impetuous countrymen-let all party rivalries, and mean jealousies, and local prejudices which prevent united effort, be repelled as utterly unworthy of men in your position-labor with all your might and disinterestedly with this grand object in view, the entire accomplishment of the providential destinies of this new world in the West—and by the blessing of God this glorious work will be completed, and the object secured before you die.

But should you neglect your great duty, and live, as many have done before you, only for mean and selfish ends—still the ends of providence will not be frustrated—God's word will not return to him void. The great development of man will be wrought out here at last—but it must be far in the distant ages of futurity, and only through long years of agony and oceans of blood—and you, taking no part in the conflict, can share in none of the glories of the triumph.

ARTICLE IX.

The MORALS OF SOCRATES.*

Translated from Schweighauser's Opuscula Academica, by F. M. Hubbard, Teacher of a

Classical School, Boston.

In the following inquiry into the moral principles which governed the life of Socrates, we have thought it best to examine first, the evidences which are left to us of his piety towards God; secondly, of his singular earnestness in promoting the happiness of men, which in him was united with a generous disregard of his own personal advantage ; and lastly, of his fortitude and constancy of mind.

CHAPTER I.

THE REVERENCE EVER MANIFESTED BY SOCRATES TOWARDS GOD.

$1. Is shown the Piety of Socrates. Whoever would form a just estimate of the piety of Socrates, ought most carefully to study and most thoroughly to apprehend the religious opinions and moral sentiments of the age in which he lived ; lest, while he would judge the character of an Athenian citizen, he may incautiously carry back his own opinions and feelings to those times, and measure by a wrong standard. Only a strict adherence to this rule can lead us to a fair and true judgment. Though in the minds of the Greeks, as of other ancient nations, the notion of many deities was deeply seated and inveterate, and though, with them, an acceptable worship and their whole religion consisted of only an outward observance

* [For an account of the Theology of Socrates, by the same author, see Bibl. Repos. First Series, Vol. XII. p. 47.-Ed.]

SECOND SERIES, VOL. I. NO. I.

NO

[ocr errors]

of prescribed forms; we are by no means to imagine that the mind of Socrates also was subject to these erroneous and diseased opinions. For while he in a spirit of true obedience honored the institutions of his country,* and mingled with his fellow citizens in the observance of those rites which his country had appointed, we can have no doubt, if we consider his habits of thought and the method of his life, that, his own convictions were far removed from the then universal belief. As in a whole people the character of their religious notions must give a form, to the outward service, and the reason and spirit of those notions, must be the actuating spirit of that service; so in an individual, the style and spirit of his inward worship must be derived from his idea of God, and must vary with the distinctness and truth of that idea. Now when we learn that Socrates formed to himself an apprehension of the Deity which surpassed in pureness and grandeur those of all philosophers who had gone before him, viz., that God is mind separate from all matter, the creator of the universe, almighty, good, wise, forecasting, everywhere present, knowing all things, invisible, one and single in the peculiarity of his own being ;t we must believe that ideas of God so true and exalted could not coëxist with only that narrow system of worship which is satisfied with a mere sensuous expression of reverence and devotion, with offerings which the hands can handle, and the eyes look on and measure. Nay, if we regard Socrates in his very prayers and sacrifices, I there is sufficient and abundant reason to believe, that he held firmly the conviction, that under whatever form he is worshipped, God looks not so much at the outward, the manner, as at the inward, state and habit of the soul. In what he conceived the most worthy worship of the Supreme Being to consist, can be gathered from what has been said, and likewise and perhaps more surely from the whole plan of his life. For he judged not, that our whole duty to God is comprised in those rites, to the performance of which human laws bind every member of the State, but that undoubtedly the entire course and method of our life ought to breathe only reverence and adoration of the Most High. And so he judged that every purpose of our soul, every act of our life, should be grounded on some

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

* Xen. Mem. Socr. I. 3. 1. IV. 3. 16. (cf. Cic. de Leg. II. 16.) + See Bibl. Repos. Vol. XII. p. 66. | Mem. Socr. I. 3, 2, 3. $ Mem, Socr. I 1, 18. 19. 20. I. 3, 4.

intimation of the will of God; that wrong should be avoided as odious to the divine nature, that the beautiful, the good, the honorable and true are to be sought after and followed as harmonizing with the divine nature; and in fine, that men, who may, if they will, perfect step by step their own nature, ought in all their actions to imitate God, who has manifestly impressed on all his works through the whole universe of created ihings, tokens of a plan devised and directed to the common advantage of all sentient natures, and has willed that nothing should exist purposeless and useless in this theatre, as it were, of his perfections.* Led by a like desire of the common advantage of all, Socrates would fain express his own piety, not only in the blamelessness of a life free from every stain of vice, but, aiming at a diviner attainment, by freely pouring forth whatever of truth and virtue he had for the benefit of every man.t Nowhere, not amid the snares of envy and calumnies, do we see him swerving from that scheme of life and those principles, which be held. Full of faith in Him, whose cause he always cherished, he chose rather to die. This is it, which most strongly attests the eminent devoutness of Socrates, and which betokens the unvarying inclination of his will to that which seemed pleasing and acceptable to God. Himself affirmed, with cheerful countenance, when his death was near, that it was the will of God that he now should die.I One can hardly question, with these evidences before him, that resignation to the divine will, was a permanent feature in the character of Socrates, and one which gave a color and strength to the rest.

$ 2. An answer to those who censure Socrates, for his obser

vance of the religious institutions of his country. Yet there are those who charge Socrates with superstition or a base hypocrisy, because, following in all things the traditional and appointed service of the gods, he offered incense on the altars of Neptune, of Jupiter, of Vulcan, and that he used auspices and other rites pertaining to divination, and advised his friends to do the same. But such should consider, that our philosopher, if he had dared to supersede, and suddenly to withdraw

* Mem. Socr. IV. 3, 17.
+ Mem. Socr. I. 6, 14. IV. 4, 1. add chap. II. infra.
| Mem. Socr. IV. 8, 5. § Mem. Socr. I. 1, 2. 9.

his countrymen from those usages, which they had been taught to regard with reverence from their infancy, would soon have incurred universal hatred, and surely would have fallen under the suspicion of atheism ; and thus, having made shipwreck of all good reputation among his fellow citizens, if even he escaped the loss of life or years of exile, all the fruit and advantage of his doctrine would have perished. But I do not see that he is worthy of a severe censure, who, that he may gain the name of an upright and obedient citizen, follows in anything the ordinances of his country, provided it be not repugnant to propriety and honor, and involve no tendency to a corruption of morals. So when we behold Socrates not hastily and untimely rejecting those rites which belonged to the religion of his country, so far is he from deserving censure on that account, that rather we should approve the calmness and moderation of his temper, under the control of which like a worthy subject he observed himself the appointments of the State, and exhorted others to do the same. Not less here ought we to commend the rare prudence which this same purpose displayed, and by which he most clearly saw that the feelings of men are to be cultivated and their opinions rectified, and themselves brought to a perception of the folly of mistaken religious usages, not so much by the importance given to external ceremonies, as by promulgating more adequate apprehensions of the divine mind. By the invitation therefore of his own example he called men to the observance of the established customs of devotion and worship; yet more earnestly did he labor to impart to his fellow citizens a better and more salutary knowledge of God, by the natural efficacy of which they would gradually and of themselves come to understand what was superstitious and vain in the popular religion.*

* Some have been disposed to charge Socrates with superstition, because, as Plato near the end of his Phaedo relates, he is reported to have said with alınost his last breath, that “ he owed a cock to Æsculapius." Which no one will suppose him to have uttered in earnest, who regards his well known habit of irony, but will rather agree with many, both ancients and inoderns, that in this saying we are to understand Socrates, who had often said that the soul so long as it is in the body is in a state of disease, to have meant by Æsculapius, health, and to have intimated by this form of expression, that he bad now recovered from this long disease.

« PreviousContinue »