Зображення сторінки

by reading all the books on the subject which were accessible to him; so that, at length, Crito, a noble and wealthy Athenian, persuaded him to devote himself to study. From his father he inherited a small patrimony; and Crito, who became his fast friend, and of whom, after his condemnation, we shall have to say more, supplied him with what farther pecuniary assistance was necessary. From that time, he became a diligent student; and it soon became apparent that he would not be content with perceiving, remembering, and combining into system, the dogmas which others had taught, but that he was resolved to think for himself; and, so far as he should be able, form a system for himself. Perhaps it will be useful bere to state, that the result was what we, with our light, may anticipate. Errors he detected, and many important truths he propounded; but he found it more easy to detect and point out what was mistaken and wrong, than clearly to describe what was true and right. Following up the principle he was able to establish, he swept away the vain teaching of the Sophists; who, for that reason, became his bitter enemies; and often did it come to pass that his conjectures, suggested by the severe investigations which his submission and love of truth directed, had a wonderful proximity to correctness. But the great experiment was then, in the allruling providence and perfect wisdom of God, in course of trial. Man, as he now is, needs light from heaven for the establishment of religious and moral truth; and even after the teaching of Socrates and Plato, St. Paul had to say, writing to the learned and elegant Corinthians, neighbours of the Athenians, “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”

But although thus earnestly devoted to philosophical investigations, Socrates was by no means a recluse. While in the vigour of life and health, he was on several occasions engaged in the military expeditions which were so frequent among the ancient Greeks. The several republics in the peninsula were seldom long at peace with each other. In these expeditions no man endured the hardships of a military life with greater firmness and perseverance, or performed with

more vigilance and courage its duties, both in the camp and field, than Socrates. In his first campaign, Alcibiades being wounded in battle, and falling in the midst of the enemy, Socrates carried off both the man and his arms. In one, against the Bæotians, the Athenians were defeated; but it was said that, had they all behaved like him, the victory would have been theirs. On this occasion he saved Xenophon, as he had before saved Alcibiades. To the civil duties of an Athenian citizen he was not less attentive. On one occasion he manifested a moral courage not less honourable to him than his valour in the field had been. The Athenian fleet had defeated that of the Lacedæmonians at Arginusæ, but a violent storm having arisen, and the vessels having been dispersed, the victorious Generals were unable to bury the dead who had been cast on the shores near which the battle was fought. To inter the dead was considered as so sacred a duty, that when the leaders returned in triumph to the city, instead of being welcomed, they were imprisoned, tried, condemned, and put to death, for an omission for which they were not to blame. Socrates alone opposed the whole proceeding. The speakers on the other side vehemently denounced him for this, and the inflamed people encouraged them; but he was not to be moved. He knew that he was exposing himself to imprisonment, perhaps to death, but his resolution to be just was unconquerable; and though he could not hinder the iniquitous doom, he braved all hazards in protesting against it.

At length, having proceeded so far in his researches as to feel himself equal to the task of a public instructer, he gave up all other employments, and spent the remainder of his life in endeavouring to turn from error and vice all who would listen to him. He did not open a school, as was customary with the philosophers (or Sophists, as they were termed) by profession, nor would he receive any reward. He taught by conversation. His usual method was that of asking questions, following one by another, till the error he opposed became so apparent in the answers that he received, that no other confutation was necessary. He sought, as he professed, to make a true philosophy come down

to dwell with men, instead of abiding useless in heights inaccessible. But, thus resolutely opposing error, all who gained by error, the unprincipled Sophists especially, became his deadly enemies. Aristophanes, the comedian, sought to turn him into ridicule, and succeeded. And the people, finding that they were not amused by disputations merely verbal, but that even their favourite evils were assailed, readily listened to his foes. At length, therefore, two persons, Anytus and Melitus,—for their names are on record, — publicly accused him of impiety. The indictment (as given by Xenophan) was,—"Socrates is guilty, because he does not acknowledge the gods that the city acknowledges, but seeks to bring in strange and new deities : he is also guilty because he seeks to corrupt the youth.” Though he was now seventy, he defended himself with great calmness and power ; but the torrent was resistless; by a majority of Judges he was found guilty, and sentenced to die. A curious respite, however, was afforded. It was contrary to law to put any one to death during a certain festival; and as this had commenced when he was sentenced, thirty days of life yet remained for him. He spent this time in prison, conversing with his friends. By Crito the means of escape were provided; but he refused to avail himself of them, and compelled even his weeping friend to acknowledge that he was right, The sentence itself, he said, was unjust, but it was passed according to law; and to law he, as a good citizen, owed unswerving obedience, where only his own suffering was concerned. The last day of his life, his friends came early to see him, with whom he conversed, as usual; and when the fatal hour approached, and their firmness gave way, he was unmoved, or only moved by their kindness. He requested the jailer, who brought him the cup of poison, weeping while he did so, to instruct him how to proceed after he had received it; and both drank the mortal potion, and followed the instructions given to him, as quietly and seriously as if it had been a cup of medicine. He then, as directed, lay on the bed, with his face covered ; and when he had begun to feel the operation of the poison, he uncovered his face, and said, “ Crito, we owe a cock to Esculapius : pay

it, and do not forget it.” Crito promised, and asked if he had any other charge to give; but he spoke no more. He thus died, in the first year of the 95th Olympiad, B.c. 400.

(To be continued.)

[ocr errors]


LANGUAGE. GENESIS xxvii. 41.-" The days of mourning for my father are at hand.” When the father or the mother has become aged, the children say, “The day for the lamentation of our father is at hand :" “ The sorrowful time for our mother is fast approaching.” If requested to go to another part of the country, the son will ask, “How can I go? the day of sorrow for my father is fast approaching.” When the aged parents are seriously ill, it is said, “Ah! the days of mourning have come.”

Genesis xxvii. 44.-"Tarry with him a few days, until thy brother's fury turn away.” (See also Gen. xxxiii. 3.) How exactly does this advice agree with that which is given under similar circumstances at this day! Any Tamul mother would have recommended the same thing as did Rebekah, and any son would have acted in the same way as Jacob did. See a person that has deeply offended another whom he wishes to conciliate : he will, for weeks and months, keep entirely out of his way, and yet inquire of the servants and others if they ever hear their master mention his name. He will, perhaps, request a person to go, (as if not sent by himself,) and say, How great is his distress! His sleep has departed from him, his food has become bitter, and his soul is withered.” Should there be a slight hope of reconciliation, he inquires in what direction his offended friend will walk that day; and then he occupies a place where he must be seen. So soon as he can attract the attention of his superior, he puts his hand to his forehead, stoops to the ground as if touching his feet, to show submission. Should no notice be taken, he will go and “tarry a few days " longer, and again repeat the same humiliations, till he shall have gained his object.

Genesis xxx. 30.-" The Lord hath blessed thee since my

coming.” In the Hebrew, " at my foot.” By the labour of Jacob's foot, the cattle of Laban had increased into a multitude.

Of a man who has become rich by his own industry, it is said, “Ah! by the labour of his feet these treasures have been acquired.”—“How have you gained this prosperity ?" “By the favour of the gods, and the labour of my feet.”— “ How is it that the King is so prosperous ?” “By the labour of the feet of his Ministers."

Genesis xxxi. 2.-" Jacob beheld the countenance of Laban, and, behold, it was not toward him as before.” In the Hebrew, “ąs yesterday and the day before.” See also marginal reading to Isaiah xxx. 33 : “Of old,” from yesterday. The latter form of speech is truly oriental, and means,“ time gone by,” Has a person lost the friendship of another? he will say to him, “ Thy face is not to me as yesterday and the day before,” Is a man reduced in his circumstances? he says, “The face of God is not upon me as yesterday and the day before,”

The future is spoken of as to-day and to-morrow. “His face will be upon me to-day and to-morrow;" which means, "always," "I will love thee to-day and to-morrow."-" Do you think of me?” “Yes, to-day and to-morrow.”—“Modeliar, have you heard that Tamban is trying to injure you ?" “Yes; and go tell him, that neither to-day nor to-morrow will he succeed.”

Our Saviour says, “Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to-day and to-morrow.” A messenger came to inform him Herod would kill him ; but this was his reply, intimating that the power could never be taken from him.

Jacob said to Laban, “ My righteousness answers for me in time to come;" but the Hebrew has for this, “ to-morrow; ” his righteousness would be perpetual.

In Eastern language, therefore, yesterday and the day before signify “time past;” but to-day and to-morrow, “time to come.” See Exod. iv. 10; xiii. 14; Deut. xix. 4, 6; Joshua iii. 4; iv. 6, 21; xxii. 24; 1 Sam. iv. 7; xix. 7; 2 Sam. ü. 17; 1 Chron. xi. 2.-Roberts's Oriental Illustrations of the Sacred Scriptures.

« НазадПродовжити »