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virtue is, under God, the purest fountain of human happiness; that the holiest temple on earth is the home consecrated by the pious ministry of woman; and that the bosom of a faithful mother is the altar upon which infant man is most securely dedicated to his country, to the world, and to God.
" There woman reigns; the mother, daughter, wife,
And fireside pleasures gambol at her feet.'* Beside, no one can be more fully persuaded of the insufficiency of his reason to discover moral truth, than was Socrates himself. It was a favorite observation of his, that the Divine Original had veiled many things in mystery, to teach us dependence and reverence ; nay, that these mysteries proved the superior divinity. For this reason, he constantly exhorted his followers to consult the will of Deity, and seek his guidance. He taught, it is true, the noble maxiin, that the • honorable was no other than the useful,' a principle, which that purest of Roman moralists, Cicero, has so largely and delightfully dwelt upon; but how to discover, always, what was honorable and useful, he confessed his inability; and declared his belief, that men would yet be taught by revelation from heaven that which they could not discover themselves. This he states distinctly, in the treatise on the Republic, when he says that a perfect kingdom would yet be established upon earth, by men inspired by God; and that until such inspiration is given, all attempts to form a perfect state, will be in vain. In the same work he also asserts with confidence, that a perfect example of human excellence would yet appear among men. His description of this perfect or just man is so curious, (I had almost said prophetic,) that I give it here, as it is found in the second book of the Republic. “He will be a simple and ingenuous man, desiring, according to Æschylus, not the semblance but the reality of goodness; for if he shall be thought to be just, he will have honor and rewards; and thus it will be uncertain whether he be just for the pure sake of justice, or the rewards and honors of it. Let him be stripped of every thing but his integrity; while he doth no injustice, let him have the reputation of doing the greatest ; that he may be tortured for justice, not yielding to reproach, or such things as arise from it; but may be immoveable until death, appearing to be unjust through life, yet being really just. The just man being of this disposition, will be scourged, tormented, bound, have his eyes burnt out, and lastly, having suffered all manner of evils, will be CRUCIFIED.'+
He speaks yet more plainly in the second Alcibiades, where this dialogue occurs :
Soc. It is altogether necessary, Alcibiades, that you should wait (to be taught to pray) till some person teach you how you ought to behave both toward God and men.
ALCI. And when will that time come, Socrates ? And who is he that will teach me? With what pleasure ought I to look upon him ?
* J. MONTGOMERY.
Soc. He will do it, who watches over you; but methinks, as we read in Homer, that Minerva scattered the mist that veiled Diomede's eyes, and hindered him from distinguishing between God and man, so it is necessary ihai he should, in the first place, ecatter the darkness that covers your soul, and afterward give you the remedies that are necessary to put you in a condition to discover between good and evil, for at present you know not how to do so.
Alci. Let him do so; let him scatter this darkness, and do whatever else he pleases. I abandon myself to his conduct, and am very ready to obey all his commands, provided I shall be made the better for it.
Soc. Do not doubt of that. For this governor I tell you of, has a most tender love
Alci. I will defer it, and to express my gratitude to you for this good counsel, let me take this crown from my head, and place it upon yours. We will give other crowns to the gods for the service we owe them, when I see that happy day — which will not be deferred long, if they please.
Eupolis, a pupil of Socrates, 440 A. C., has left us also an admirable Hymn to the Creator, from which Pope has evidently borrowed the opening part of his Universal Prayer. I sukjoin an extract from an excellent translation by Samuel Wesley, the father of the founder of Methodism. It may be found in Coke's life of the latter :
Author of being, source of light,
With such almost prescient opinions, who can doubt that Socrates, had he lived in our day, would have been a Christian ? Certainly nothing can be more unfair than for the opponents of revelation to claim him as being with them. And here I cannot avoid adding a testimony, wrung from the soul of the sensual but eloquent Rousseau. It is found in the second volume of · Emilia.' What prejudices, what blindness, must possess that man who dares to compare the son of Sophroniscus with the son of Mary? What an immense distance between them? Socrates dying without pain, without ignominy, easily supported to the last his character; and if this easy death had not cast a lustre upon his life, it might have been doubted whether Socrates, with all his genius, was any thing but a sophist. (Here the Frenchman is characteristically extravagant.) It may be said he invented morality, but before him others had practised it. He only said what they had done, and made lessons of their examples. Aristides had been just, before Socrates said what justice was. Leonidas
had died for his country, before Socrates had made love of country a duty. Sparta was sober, before Socrates had praised sobriety. Before he had defined virtue, Greece abounded with virtuous men. But where did Jesus, among his countrymen, take the pattern of that elevated and pure morality, of which he alone hath given both the precept and example? From the bosom of the most furious fanaticism, the highest Wisdom made herself heard, and the simplicity of the most heroic virtue honored the vilest people upon earth. The death of Jesus, expiring in torments, blasphemed, reviled, execrated by a whole people, is the most fearful death one could dread. Socrates taking the cup of poison, blessed the weeping man who presented it. Jesus, in the midst of a frightful punishment, prayed for his blood-thirsty executioners. Yes ! if the life and death of Socrates be that of a philosopher, the life and death of Jesus is that of a God!'
A little examination will also convince us, that the great doctrines of Socrates were by no means original discoveries of his own. It is commonly, but erroneously, supposed, that idolatry is the early commencement of religion among a people, upon which they improve, as they advance in knowledge and civilization, until they attain a better and more rational faith. The fact, however, is, that all false religions are corruptions of a true faith, which was common to mankind, in the first ages. This was the opinion of St. Paul, who was well acquainted with classic history. For, speaking of the bea. then, he says: When they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.'* In this he is sustained by history, and the opinions of the ancients themselves. So far from purifying their religion, as they increased in knowledge and refinement, the Greeks and Romans added to the number of their gods every year, until they became countless. Their best philosophers, in later ages, had a high reverence for the opinions of antiquity; and the higher up we follow the stream of moral sentiment, the purer does it become, which is a strong indication that it flowed originally from
fountain. Their poets sang, too, of a happy period, which the world at first enjoyed, and which they called the golden age, before,' as Virgil says, 'impious men learned to feed upon the slaughtered herds,' and when, according to Ovid,
Man, yet new,
All unprovoked did fruitful stores allow.' Thus we find, before the time of Socrates, records, not faint nor few, of the same doctrines which he systematized. Anaxagoras, his great master, undoubtedly taught that "pure, intelligent, active MIND
* Romans i. 21, 22, 23
was the first cause of all things,' for of this Aristotle and Plato both assure us; and indeed it is thought by many, that we should name a school of philosophy after Homer, who lived at least four hundred years before our sage, and among whose poetical fictions much remarkable truth is apparent. In one of the fragments called Orphia, because by some supposed to have been written by Orpheus, but more correctly attributed to Cecrops, a philosophic founder of a colony in Attica, 1556 years before Christ, or more than a thousand years before Socrates, we find this sentence : 'There is one Power, one Deity, one Great Governor of all things. The reader is aware, also, that the learned Greeks, (as Pythagoras and Herodotus,) before and about the Socratic period, were accustomed to travel in Egypt, as the then treasure-house of ancient wisdom, and there, through the common people were so degraded as to worship not only beasts and birds, but vegetables, (the onion being one of ibeir gods,) the priests preserved in their secret and guarded mysteries certain great truths, with which the stranger student was permitted to become acquainted. What some of these doctrines, were, we may learn from a verse sung in the mysteries of Eleusis, which were copied from those of Egypt: *Pursue thy path rightly, and contemplate the King of the World. · He is Ono, and of himself alone ; and to that One, all things have owed their being. He encompasses all things. No mortal hath beheld him, but he sees all things.' Over the statue of Isis, the chief deity of Egypt, was this wonderful inscription : ‘I am all that has been, and all that shall be, and no man hath ever yet lifted my veil.' I need not ask the reader to mark the parallelism between this and the words of God to Moses, 'I AM THAT I Am. This view of the subject is made still more clear from chronology, which fixes the date of the Phænician colonies under Ivachus, who settled Greece in 1856, or about fifty years after Abraham, who lived in the days of Shem, the son of Noah, and one of the survivors of the old world, according to Moses. The same historian gives us reason to believe that the worship of the true God was then prevalent in Egypt, (for he declares that the reigning Pharaoh worshipped him,) and probably universal; for Melchisedek, (whom many suppose, with much reason, to have been Shem,) was the royal priest of Jehovah. And, though there is much absurd contradiction in the Chinese chronology, they also, like the Brahmins of India, fix the origin of their religious opinions in a very remote antiquity; while their god Fo or Fohi seems to have been no other than Noah. Our own Indians, too, who hold to the unity and spirituality of God, are declared by the late venerable Boudinot, whose work, entitled • The Star in the West,' proves his laborious researches among them, to have very distinct traditions of the deluge. Thus, then, we find the opinions of all mankind converging upward to one period — a period when truth prevailed. The moral philosophy of Socrates may thus be supposed to be the gathered fragments of a better and revealed religion, which were too mighty not to have survived the concussions of the iron ages which preceded him.
The very fables of the classic poets show whence their prevalent opinions came corrupted by the muddy stream of tradition. Homer
makes water to have been the principle of all things, and they all refer to an original chaos,
"When air was void of light, and earth unstable,
All were confused, and each disturbed the rest.' OVID. The story of Pandora is very striking. She was, according to Hesiod, the first woman made from clay, and animated. She was given as a wife to Prometheus, who stole fire from heaven, and presented her husband with a box, which being opened, there flew from it innumerable evils, such as sickness and death, which have ever since plagued the world, one blessing, hope, only remaining. Now Plato tells us, that the meaning of this fable is, that the desire of forbidden luxuries was the cause of all mortal evil. We see at once this story came from the tradition of the fall, and the promise of redemption, which immediately succeeded it. So, when he describes Jupiter as sending his commands to Neptune, that he should allay the storms which threatened the destruction of the Grecian fleet, hemakes Iris, the rainbow, the messenger who carried the divine will. I will give one more instance of such agreement. Socrates and Plato, and others of the ancients, believed that Divine Providence was administered by inferior agents of the Great Deity. This was the origin of their multiplicity of deities, so that we may say,
* The Naiad bathing in her crystal spring,
Which sin had thrown around their spirits like a shroud ?'* This belief in inferior yet good demons, I have already said, appears to have been a corruption of the Scripture doctrine of ministering angels. To show the probability of this opinion, the reader is requested to compare two extracts; the first from our Christian poet, Spenser, the other from Hesiod, who lived before Homer:
"And is there care in heaven, and is there love
The blessed angels he sends to and fro,
'How oft do they their silver bowers leave,
To come to us who succour want;
And all for love, and nothing for reward :
* From an unpublished poem.