Billeder på siden

year, Confucius replied that the abolition of an ancient rite might bring religion into disrepute.'

The Shang-te is the Creator, with the attributes of omnipotence, justice, providence, wisdom, and goodness; and the Teen is the visible heavens, the emblem of the deity. These two are sometimes confounded, as in the following passage ; but Confucius states very clearly that the object of all worship is ultimately the Almighty. 6“ The Teen,” said he, “is the universal principle and prolific source of all things. Our ancestors, who sprung from this source, are themselves the source of succeeding generations. The first duty of mankind is gratitude to Heaven; the second, gratitude to those from whom we sprung. It was to inculcate, at the same time, this double obligation, that Fúh-he established the rites in honour of Heaven and of ancestors, requiring that, immediately after sacrificing to the Shang-te, homage should be rendered to our progenitors. But as neither the one nor the other was visible by the bodily organs, he sought emblems of them in the material heavens. The Shang-te is represented under the general emblem of the visible firmament, as well as under the particular symbols of the sun, the moon, and the earth, because by their means we enjoy the gifts of the Shang-te. The sun is the source of life and light; the moon illuminates the world by night. By observing the course of these luminaries, mankind are enabled to distinguish times and seasons. The ancients, with the view of connecting the act with its object, when they established the practice of sacrificing to the Shang-te, fixed the day of the winter solstice, because the sun, after having passed through the twelve palaces assigned apparently by the Shang-te as its annual residence, began its career anew, to distribute blessings throughout the earth. After evincing, in some measure, their obligations to the Shang-te, to whom, as the universal principle of existence, they owed life and all that sustains it, the hearts of the sacrificers turned with a natural impulse towards those by whom the life they enjoyed had been successively transmitted to them; and they founded a ceremonial of respect to their honour, as the complement of the solemn worship due to the Shang-te. The Chow princes have added another ritea sacrifice to the Shang-te in the spring season, to render thanks to him for the fruits of the earth, and to implore him to preserve them." After describing various existing forms of sacrifice, he continued: “Thus, under whatever denomination our worship is paid, whatever be the apparent object, and of what kind soever be its external forms, it is invariably the Shang-te to whom it is addressed: the Shang-te is the direct and chief object of our veneration." We

pass from his religion to his moral philosophy. This has been invested by most writers on the subject with an imaginary purity manifestly borrowed from Christianity itself. But although many striking moral verities were enunciated and taught by the Chinese philosopher, his ethics are characterised by a generally utilitarian and selfish tone. In some respects Confucius would sustain a most advantageous comparison with any other moralist whose speculations have been independent of Christianity. As to most of the virtues essential to the constitution of domestic and social life, his standard is exceedingly high. But his system (equally with others which hold with it concurrent jurisdiction) entirely lacks the heroic element. It admits no motive that addresses the higher nature; it ignores disinterestedness, generosity, and self-sacrifice. It recognises only those forms of goodness which have their reward visibly and at once, and derives none of its sanctions from aught within, above, or beyond the external condition and relations of the individual. The case has been far otherwise with extra-Christian systems in general. Whatever their defects or vices, they have seldom been merely material in their philosophy. They have appealed to the spiritual nature of man, and to the whole range of unobjective sentiments and affections. They have presented posthumous fame, the consciousness of right, or the favour of the immortals, as motives for deeds which could bring no immediate recompense, and might be attended with danger or sacrifice. They have often elevated mere enterprise or hardihood above the less obtrusive but essential virtues of common life. And Christianity, while it gives the place of honour to such virtues as may be exercised by all men, and under every posture of circumstances, yet cherishes, in all who are endowed beyond mediocrity, the disposition to make themselves felt, to leave their mark on society, to enlarge their sphere of effort, to sow for posterity, and trust to the distant gratitude of the reapers. Now moral enterprise and heroism, more or less free from base admixtures, create the movements and propagate the impulses that result in the progress of society. To be sure the earnest, disinterested spirits are few compared with the selfish and inert; but the mere willingness to confer unrecompensed benefits, of itself creates power, and enables individuals, ' unpropped by ancestry' or office, to mould masses and rule multitudes; so that every stage in the advancement of civilised man has been but a new verification of the Scriptural maxim : 'If any man will be great among you, let him be your servant.' Once let a man cast himself upon God, on conscience, or on posterity, for whatever of personal revenue is to accrue to him from invention, discovery, toil, or sacrifice, and he has planted his lever where he can move the world. Now we can find in no form or phasis of Chinese theology or ethics any element that can create or inspire these file-leaders in the march of mind.' We doubt whether there is a nation upon earth (we exclude not the most savage) where self-seeking is so universal. It is on this principle solely that Chinese society is organised; and the only reason why order and mutual subordination are so sacredly observed is, that the intensity of each individual selfishness keeps every other in check.

But in order to form a true conception of Confucius we must regard him as a politician. He began his career as a man of business—a Chinese official. The affairs of the empire were his study all his life through, and he trained his disciples to take part in them. To ascertain the ends of government, and the means of accomplishing those ends, was the one function of the sage, and to this all was subordinated. He was a strenuous advocate of general education; but all education was to be for the sake of government, as in his view the one was essential to the other. Our quotations from the ' Lun-yu 'shew that he was enthusiastically fond of music ; but he considered it important only as an instrument of education and government; and this is the only point in which he bears a resemblance to Plato. Morals he considered as the foundation of politics; the conduct of an individual father in his family as the prototype of a sovereign's sway over his people. The following noble principles seem to form the basis of his political system :-1. That the sovereign should be considered as the father of his people ; 2. That all offices should be given to merit alone ; 3. That the military power should be entirely subject to the civil ; and 4. That the state should not interfere with the religious opinions of the individual. The application of these principles to practice would have produced an admirable system of civil polity in the hands of men of deep knowledge and practical experience, but this could not reasonably have been expected from the natives of a semi-barbarous state ; and the result has been, that the first two of the principles above stated resolved themselves into pure despotism, the third into absolute cowardice, and the last into a total absence of real religious feeling. Such at least is the present state of China.

It may be interesting to illustrate these remarks by the observations of a recent traveller in the country — A short inspection,' says Mr Williams, will shew that the great leading principles by which the present Chinese government preserves its power over the people consist in a system of strict surveillance and mutual responsibility among all classes. These are aided in their efficiency by the geographical isolation of the country, by a difficult language, and a general system of political education and official examinations. They are enforced by such a minute gradation of rank and subordination of officers as to give the government more of a military character than at first appears; and the whole system is such as to make it one of the most unmixed despotisms now existing. It is like a network extending over the whole face of society, each individual being isolated in his own mesh, and responsibly connected with all around him. The man who knows that it is almost impossible, except by entire seclusion, to escape from the company of secret or acknowledged emissaries of government, will be cautious of offending the laws of the country, knowing, as he must, that though he should himself escape, yet his family, his kindred, or his neighbours, will suffer for his offence; that if unable to recompense the sufferers, it will probably be dangerous for him to return home; or if he does, it will be most likely to find his property in the possession of neighbours or officers of the government, who feel conscious of security in plundering one whose offences have for ever placed him under the ban of the implacable law.

* The effect of these two causes upon the mass of the people is to imbue them with a great fear of the government, both of its officers and its operations ; each man considers that safety is to be found alone in absolute withdrawal. This mutual surveillance and responsibility, though only partially extended throughout the people, necessarily undermines every principle of confidence, and infuses universal distrust; and this object of complete isolation, though at the expense of justice, truth, honesty, and natural affection, is what the government strives to accomplish, and actually does to a wonderful degree. The idea of government in the minds of the people is like the sword of Damocles; and so far has this undefined fear of some untoward result, when connected with it, counteracted the real vigour of the Chinese, that much of their indifference to improvement, contentment with what is already known and possessed, and submission to petty spoliation of individuals, may be referred to it. "Men are deterred, too, by distrust of each other, as much as by fear of the police, from combining in an intelligent manner to resist governmental exactions because opposed to principles of equity, or joining with their rulers to uphold good order ; no such men, and no such instances as John Hampden going to prison for refusing to contribute to a loan, or Ezekiel Williams and his companions throwing the tea overboard in Boston Harbour, ever occurred in China or any other Asiatic country. They dread illegal societies quite as much from the cruelties this same principle induces the leaders to exercise over recreant or pected memb

as from apprehension of arrest and punishment by the regular authorities. Thus with a state of society sometimes upon the verge of insurrection, this mass of people is kept in check by the threefold cord of responsibility, fear, and isolation, each of them strengthening the others, and all of them dependiing upon the character of the people for much of their efficiency. Since all the officers of government received their intellectual training, when plebeians, under these influences, it is easy to understand why the supreme powers are so averse to improvement and to foreign intercourse ; from both which causes, in truth, the state has the greatest reason to dread lest the charm of its power be broken and its sceptre pass away.'

These are results painful to contemplate; but although we must admit that the value of every political and social system is to be tested by the effects it produces, yet in this case the fault is not to be laid to the charge of Confucius. He did but lay a foundation; it was for other men to complete the edifice. His part of the construction was nobly planned and executed; the failure was on the part of his successors. We feel no hesitation, therefore, in assigning to the Chinese philosopher the high niche in the temple of fame allotted him by Pope in his well-known lines

'Superior and alone Confucius stood, Who taught that noble science-to be good.'



HE moon was shining brightly over the beautiful vale of Taunton, and

soundly in their beds, when young Vincent Halloway crept out of his. He had no toilet to make, for he had lain down in his clothes, in order to deceive the vigilance of his father—a substantial farmer, but a severe man and a rigid religionist, who made it a rule never to rest his own head on the pillow till he had seen his son's disposed of in the same way; for, as he said, “ he knew what lads were, and how ready they are to get into mischief: and there was nothing like looking well after them!' When his less strict friends laughed, and told him that youth would be youth in spite of him, and that do what he would Vincent would be like other young men by and by, he answered by quoting Solomon's proverb of training up a child in the way it should go';' and declaring, that if his son did go wrong, it should not be through any neglect of his. Come what might hereafter, he would have nothing to answer for. So, in consequence of this determination, Vincent, though now nearly two-and-twenty years of age, was permitted to attend neither fair nor market, neither junketings nor cricket-matches; and though he had had a good education, he was seldom allowed anything to read except Bunyan and the Bible, and the 'Whole Duty of Man. Under these circumstances it was impossible to enjoy the intimacy of any of the young people of the village ; for during the daytime he was kept pretty closely employed in the superintendence of his father's farm, and when work was done, he was expected to be present at supper and

prayers ; whilst on Sundays, church and his religious studies and examinations occupied every hour of the day. It may be presumed, therefore, that Vincent's life was not a very cheerful one, nor is it at all surprising that he should rebel in spirit against this rigid domination. Many a lad would have done more—broken out into open mutiny, or become a hypocrite, and sought compensation in secret dissipations. But though Vincent often writhed and

fretted, his temperament was not sufficiently excitable to drive him easily into either of these extremities. Added to which he was naturally ingenuous, and stood greatly in awe of his father whom it was not easy to defy. His love for his mother also helped to keep him in the straight but narrow path he was condemned to—an

No. 78.

a man


« ForrigeFortsæt »