« ForrigeFortsæt »
people were, who have the rashness to intrude into government without any other preparation for the service of the public, than that of a high esteem for themselves, and an immoderate ambition of rising to the first places and dignities.
9 “ Have a care, dear Glauco," said he to him, “lest a too warm desire of honors should deceive you into pursuits that may cover you with shame, by setting your incapacity and slender abilities in full light.".
10 Glauco improved from the wise admonitions of Soerates, and took time to inform himself in private, before he ventured to appear in public. This is a lesson for all ages,
very useful to persons in all stations and conditions of life.
Dialogue between Socrates and Euthydemus, on the bene
ficence of God. 1 Xenophon has transmitted to us a conversation of Socrates with Euthydemus, upon the wisdom and goodness of Providence, which is one of the finest passages to be found in the writings of the ancients.
2 “ Did you never reflect within yourself,” says Socrates to Euthydemus, “how much care the gods have taken to bestow upon man all that is necessary to his nature ?" “Never, I assure you,” replied he. “You see," continued Socrates, “how necessary light is, and how precious that gift of the gods ought to appear to us.
3 “Without it,” added Euthydemus, “ we should be like the blind, and all nature as if it were not, or were dead; because we have occasion for suspense and relaxation, they have also given us the night for our repose."
4 66 You are in the right, and for this we ought to render them continual praise and thanksgiving. They have ordained that the sun, that bright and luminous star, should preside over the day, to distinguish its different parts, and that its light should not only serve to discover the wonders of nature, but to dispense universal light and heat; and at the same time they have commanded the moon and stars to illuminate the night of itself dark and obscure.
5 “ Is there any thing more admirable than this variety and vicissitude of day and night, of light and darkness, of
labor and rest; and all this for the convenience and good of
6 Socrates enumerates in like manner, the infinite advantages we receive from fire and water in the occasions of life
; and continuing to observe upon the wonderful attention of providence in all that regards us. What say you,” pursued he,“ upon the sun's return after winter to revisit us, and that as the fruits of one season wither and decay, he ripens new ones to succeed them?
7 “ That having rendered man this service, he retires, lest he should incommode him by excess of heat; and then, after having removed to a certain point, which he could not pass without putting us in danger of perishing with cold, that he returns in the same track to resume his place in those parts of the heavens, where his presence is most beneficial to us?
8 « And because we would neither support the cold or heat, if we were to pass in an instant from one to the other, do you not admire, that while this star approaches and removes so slowly, the two extremities arrive by almost insensible degrees ! Is it possible not to discover in this disposition of the seasons of the year, a providence and goodness, not only attentive to our necessities, but even our delights and enjoyments ?"
9 “All these things,” said Euthydemus, “make me doubt, whether the gods have any other employment than to shower their gifts and graces upon mankind. There is one point, however, that puts me to a stand, which is, that the brute animals partake of all these blessings as well as ourselves.”
10 “ Yes,” replied Socrates ; “but do you but observe, that all these animals subsist only for man's service ? The strongest and most vigorous of them he subjects at his will, he makes them tame and gentle, and uses them successfully in his wars, his labors, and the other occasions of life.
11 “What if we consider man in himself?” Here Socrates examines the diversity of the senses, by the ministry of which man enjoys all that is best and most excellent in nature; the vivacity of his wit, and the force of his reason, which exalt him infinitely above all other animals; the wonderful gift of speech, by the means of which we communicate our thoughts reciprocally, publish our laws, and govern states.
12 “From all this,” says Socrates, “it is easy to discern that there are gods, and that they have man in their particu
lar care; though he cannot discover them by his senses. Do we perceive the thunder, whilst it strikes through all things that oppose it? Do we distinguish the winds, whilst they are tearing up all before them in our view ? Our soul itself, with which we are so intimate, which moves and acts us, is it visible ? can we behold it? It is the same with regard to the gods, of whom none are visible in the distribution of their favors.
13 “ The GREAT GOD himself, this great God, who has formed the universe, and supports the stupendous work, whose every part is finished with the utmost goodness and harmony; he who preserves them perpetually in immortal vigor, and causes them to obey him with a never failing punctuality, and a rapidity not to be followed by our imagination; this God makes himself sufficiently visible by the endless wonders of which he is author; but continues always invisible in himself.
14 “Let us not then refuse to believe even what we do not see, and let us supply the defects of our corporeal eyes, by using those of the soul; but especially let us learn to render the just homage of respect and veneration to the divinity, whose will it seems to be, that we should have no other perception of him than by his effects in our favor. Now this adoration, this homage, consists in pleasing him, and we can only please him by doing his will."
15 In this manner Socrates instructed youth; these are the principles and sentiments he inspired into them; on the one side perfect submission to the laws and magistrates, in which he made justice consist; on the other, a profound regard for, and conformity to the will, of the divinity, which constitutes religion.
16 He cites an excellent prayer from an anonymous poet: “Great God, give us, we beseech thee, those good things of which we stand in need, whether we crave them or not; and remove from us 'all those which may be hurtful to us, though we implore them of you."
SECTION III. Accusation, defence, condemnation and death of Socrates.
1 Socrates having been accused by his enemies, of whom the best men frequently have the greatest number, and brought to a public trial, on a variety of frivolous and mostly false charges, he was condemned, by a majority of five hundred judges, to suffer death by drinking a decoction of hemlock, (cicuta,) which he submitted to, with undaunted firmness and composure.
2 One accusation was, that he denied the fabulous deities adored by his country; which if true, would have been one of the most magnanimous and glorious deeds he could have been guilty of. He, however, denies the charge, and cites the sacrifices he had made to them, in the temples and in his own house.
3 He was accused of corrupting and leading astray the youth, there being mischievous and abandoned men found among those who had been his pupils. To which he makes the following defence:
4 “ I am accused of corrupting the youth, and of instilling Hangerous maxims into them, as well in regard to the worship of the gods, as the rules of government. You know, Athenians, that I never made it my profession, to teach; nor can envy, however violent against me, reproach me with ever having sold my instructions. I have an undeniable evidence for me in this respect, which is my poverty.
5 “Always equally ready to communicate my thoughts either to the rich or poor, and to give them entire leisure to question or answer me, I lend myself; to every one who is desirous of becoming virtuous; and if amongst those who hear me, there are any who prove either good or bad, neither the virtues of the one, nor the vices of the other, to which I have not contributed, are to be ascribed to me.
6 “ My whole employment is to persuade young and old against too much love for the body, for riches, and all other precarious things of whatever nature they be, and against too little regard for the soul, which ought to be the object of their affection : for I incessantly urge to you, that virtue does not proceed from riches, but on the contrary, riches from virtue; and that all the other goods of human life, as well public as private, have their source in the same principle.
7 « And what is the cause that when others are under a necessity to procure their delicacies from abroad, at an exorbitant rate, I can indulge in pleasures far more exquisite, by recurring to the reflections in my own mind? If to speak in this manner be to corrupt youth, I confess, Athenians, that I am guilty, and deserve to be punished.” “Pass on me what sentence you please, Athenians, but I can neither repent nor change my conduct."
8 On hearing his final sentence, addressing himself to the judges with a noble tranquillity, "I am going,” said he, “ to suffer death by your order, to which nature had condemned me from the first moment of my birth; but my accusers will suffer no less from infamy and injustice by the decrees of truth.”
9 While in prison, Socrates was notified by his friends that his jailor was bribed, and that it was in his power to escape the fatal destiny which awaited him, which he was pressingly urged to do. But he sternly rejected the proposition, on the principle that it would be unjust and shameful to violate and evade the laws of the republic, even in their cruel excesses ; having repeatedly pledged himself to inviolable fidelity, by the most solemn engagements.
10 “ It has always been a maxim with us,” says he, “ that it is never allowable, upon any pretence whatsoever, to commit injustice, not even in regard to those who injure us, nor to return evil for evil, and that when we have once engaged our word, we are bound to keep it inviolably; no interest being capable to dispense with it.”
11 Some time after the death of Socrates, the Athenians became sensible of their shameful outrage, which appeared in all its horrors. Athens was in universal mourning and consternation. The accusers were called to an account, and condemned to death, banishment, and treated with every kind of contumely; so that some of them killed themselves.
12 Although Socrates discovered extraordinary sagacity in the perception of moral truth, it appears, from his construing his penetrating prompt judgment into a personal genius, or demon, that he had not divested his mind of the influence of the fantastic chimeras that were generally prevalent in those dark ages of ignorance and superstition. Another evidence of this, is, his faith in oracles, in sacrifices to imaginary fabulous deities, in a multiplicity of Gods, &c.
13 The excellent instructions which Socrates delivered to the Athenians, in relation to the practical moral duties, entitled him to their respect and gratitude; but they still remained idolatrous, and “ too superstitious," until, five hundred years after him,- - Paul stood in the midst of Mars hill,” and declared unto them the God “that dwelleth not in temples made with hands !"
J. T. F2