Page images
PDF
EPUB

taught as the deduction of his own reason, our Saviour revealed to the world as truths which his Father and our Father had sent him into the world to teach to the sons of men. The conclusions at which a careful and honest reason arrives are seldom, if ever, wrong. How great, then, are the powers which a kind and all-wise God has given to us poor creatures of a day !

The third part of the argument, directed against the belief that the gods might be propitiated and appeased by the supplications and sacrifices of the wicked, is introduced by the Athenian's asking his fellow-traveller and their venerable host " what officers, to compare small things with great, were like the gods ?” Whether naval commanders, or generals at the head of armies were like them? Or whether charioteers contending in the stadium, or physicians whose care is of diseases, were like the gods ? Or whether they could be compared to husbandmen carefully watching the crops in the season of rains, or to those who lead a pastoral life, attending flocks and herds; or to watch-dogs guarding the tent or fold? All of whom might be corrupted by gifts and bribes to betray the interests which they were appointed to guard. If the gods could thus be moved by the prayers and gifts of unjust men, then were they partakers of wickedness and guilty of great wrong. But the attribute of justice is essential to the idea of an upright man. The gods are greater and better than an upright man : therefore they cannot be unjust, nor capable of being moved by the prayers and sacrifices of unjust men. From this argument it appears that Plato considered the gods to be inexorable in their judgment of mankind.

Having finished the three divisions of his argument, Plato concludes with instituting the punishments due to each class of unbelievers according to the degree of their criminality. And, in the first place, he would have three prisons erected in a city for all kinds of criminals: — one, a very large receiving prison, to be situated conveniently near the Forum ; another, as a House of Correction, to be situated near the chief rendezvous of the “ night-police ;” and the third, in the least frequented and most lonely part of the city, to be denominated the “ Prison of punishment;" answering very nearly to the modern state-prison.

The Atheists, he goes on to divide into two classes : one 1846.)

Worship and Sacrifice.

119

of which openly derided the established worship and sneered at all religion. This class of offenders he holds to be worthy of death. But the second class, who were careful not to sneer at or deride religious duties, but avoided scoffers and loved rather to consort with the good and pious, he held should receive only warning and imprisonment: whether for life, or not, he does not say.

Those who denied the watchful care and providence of the gods, he also divides into two classes. The first, of inoffensive manners, whom he would confine in the house of correction for a period not less than five years ; during which time no person should be allowed to visit or speak with them, except the members of the night-police, whose duty it would be, in such cases, to converse with the prisoners on matters pertaining to the welfare of their souls. If again found guilty of the same crime, persons of this class were to be punished with death. This was also the punishment of the second division of these deniers of Divine providence; who, in addition to their dangerous belief, led turbulent and vicious lives.

He likewise divided those believing in the efficacy of prayers and bribes to appease the offended gods, into two classes: the first, of inoffensive life, to be imprisoned, like those denying Divine providence; the second, together with necromancers and wizards who pretended to power over demons, and those who took money and gifts for interceding with the gods to stay the vengeance which would otherwise fall upon the heads of the guilty, - a singular allusion to an abuse, whose parallel is intimately interwoven with the history of the Romish Church,—to be imprisoned for life, and constantly kept in irons, in the “ prison of punishment,” and fed only by the menials of the prison, no free-born person being ever allowed to visit them. When one of these prisoners died, his body was to be cast beyond the limits of the city, without burial; and if any free-born person should bury the body, he should be liable to the like punishment, whenever any one could be found willing to testify against him. If the prisoner had children, for whom the city could find employment, they were to be declared orphans, and, as such, delivered to the proper officers on the same day that the prisoner was condemned.

In addition to these penal enactments, the book closes with an ordinance providing for the public worship of the gods, in the temples, where the legal priests and priestesses should receive offerings and conduct the ceremonies in a pure and holy manner. With this is given a prohibition of all private sacrifice, and nearly all private worship of whatever kind or description. It would not seem, from this, that Plato had a very exalted notion of the rights of conscience and freedom of speech, so much insisted on at the present day: but it clearly indicates, that the loftiest moral and religious teacher is not, necessarily, also the best lawgiver. A division of intellectual, as well as physical, labor is demanded, if it is wished to secure to society the conservation and advancement of its vital interests. The union of church and state, except in a pure theocracy, like that of the Hebrews, is never, and from the nature of things never can be, beneficial to society. It is one thing to elevate and refine the morality of the world by the persuasion of argument, and another to perform the same thing by the strong arm of legislation. The history of mankind appears to show, that while the former has built up institutions which time can neither render obsolete nor the insane spirit of radicalism destroy, the latter has left no abiding impress upon the hearts of men, and scarcely anything but saint and fading traces of its momentary power. Appeals to the individual are more effectual and permanent than legal enactments, which bear only upon society as a mass; for, declaim as earnestly and eloquently as we will, it is as true of society as of individuals, that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh ;” since every permanent law is but the expression of the heart of a people, and is only vivid and salutary when it thus originates. Elevate and refine individual morality, and in the process of time, slowly but surely, elevation and refinement will develop themselves upon the face of society; while those who think to reform the world by a sudden and spasmodic effort, err most lamentably. The seed must be suffered to remain in the soil and gerininate beneath the soft influence of rain and warming sun, throughout the springtime, before the summer can see the tender blade, or the autumn return to us the rich, bending ear of the golden harvest. The moral teacher in like manner must wait patiently for the springing and final maturity of the princi

1846.]

Editorial Remarks.

121

ples which he sows in the bosom of society, and should not grow peevish and distrustful because he cannot at once see the fruit of his labors.

Legal interference with religious opinion has always been productive of serious injury to the cause of true religion, and it seems strange to us that the editor of this work, living as he does in an age when the history of the world is so plainly read and in a country whose institutions are wisely at war with bigotry, should feel and think so narrowly that he can seek to infuse the spirit of intolerance into the minds of the young; for whom, he tells us in his preface, this edition is especially intended. There are many forms of irreligion which work incalculable mischief in society, undermining and overthrowing the very pillars that support it. Atheism, if suffered to pursue its legitimate and oftentimes avowed ends, would render all this fair world a desert, and spread over it a pall of gloom on which one could not look without a cold and deathly shudder; dead bodies and yawning graves would be overhung by a sunless, starless firmament, and every leaf and bending flower would drip with a chill dew of blood. Intolerance, however, is no antidote for this terrible pestilence. Has this disease fastened upon a man, intolerance will only aggravate the symptoms and render his recovery desperate. The sick should not be treated harshly, but with kindness. They should not be shunned, and warned by the loud and harsh voice of selfish prudence not to approach our dwellings. And above all things, for sweet pity's sake, let us forbear to teach our children to mock and deride and hate them.

Of the many valuable and interesting hints which the editor has given us in the extended “excursus” appended to the text, we have no time, at present, to speak as we would like; and this is of less consequence, as they have, for the most part, but very little to do with the elucidation of this work, although much to do, with the elucidation of Plato's general system of philosophy.* We will concludo by merely saying, that while we recognize the scholarlike

* We had intended to point out the error into which the editor has fallen with regard to the Platonic use of the words eíduo and avyoo; no venial error, one would think, in a scholar of sufficient love of the great Athenian to induce the writing of above three hundred pages of votos besides the editing of the text.

VOL. XL. - 4TH S. VOL. V. NO. I.

care with which this edition is abundantly marked, and while we praise its editor for his exertions in bringing to the public eye this portion of Plato's works in so desirable a form, we must kindly but severely warn both bim and others, that the spirit he has shown a desire to foster in the young is one unworthy of a man, and should be foreign to a Christian.

R. H. B.

Art. X. — PRISONS AND PRISON DISCIPLINE.*

It is with a feeling of deference that we welcome Miss Dix's Remarks on Prisons and Prison Discipline. Her peculiar and exalted labors in the cause of humanity, her renunciation of the refined repose that has such attractions for her sex, and which was her lot, to go about doing good, enduring the vicissitudes of our changeful climate, the hardships of travel, and, more trying still, the coldness of the world, have awakened towards her a sense of gratitude,

* 1. Remarks on Prisons and Prison Discipline in the United States. By D. L. Dix. Second Edition. Philadelphia. 1845. 8vo. pp. 108.

2. Nineteenth Annual Report of the Board of Managers of the Prison Discipline Society. Boston. 1844. 8vo. pp. 116.

3. Prisons and Prisoners. By Josepi ADSHEAD. With Illustrations. London. 1845. 8vo. pp. 320.

4. Report of the Surveyor General of Prisons on the Construction, Ventilation and Details of the Pentonville Prison. London. 1844. fol. pp. 30.

5. Reruc Penitentiaire et des Institutions Préventivès, sous la direction de M. MOREAU-CHRISTOPHE. Tom. II. Paris. 1845. 8vo. pp. 659.

6. Du Projet de Loi sur la Reforme des Prisons. Par M. LEON Fau. CHER. Paris. 1844. 8vo. , 7. Considerations sur la Réclusion Individuelle des Détenus. Par W. H. SURINGAR. Traduit du Hollandais sur la seconde edition. Précedés d'une préface, et suivrés du Résumé de la question Pénitentiaire. Par L. M. MOREAU-CHRISTOPHE. Paris et Amsterdam. 1843. 8vo. pp. 131.

8. Nordamerikas Sittliche Sustande. (The Moral Condition of North America.) Von Dr. N. S. JULIUS. 2 Vols. Leipzig. 1839. 8vo.

9. Archio des Criminalrechts, herausgegeben von den Professoren ABOGG, BIRNBAUM, HEFFTER, MITTERMAIER, WACHTER, ZACHARIA. (Archives of Criminal law, edited by Professors etc.) Halle. 1843. 12mo. pp 597.

« PreviousContinue »