Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

by his first inquiry is seen from his following the same order of precedence in his own, as we have it expounded in The Laws. Thus, so far as permanent training is concerned, he may be regarded as the disciple, first of Pythagoras, and secondly of Socrates. So that we have this illustrious succession terminating in the man who took and recorded for all future time a broader and more correct view of God and man than any other heathen has been honoured to do. They were all three firm believers in one living, present God; that they were indebted to Him for their nature, for the secular means of its development, but especially for their virtue. "Thus they were evidently conscious subjects of the inward Divine influence which comes from the God - man, the Divine Head of our race. Of this, Socrates was directly conscious, as is evident by his claiming to be guided by a special Dæmon, Sign, or Voice, which, according to Plato, he declared had followed him from his childhood, and that this had come to him by 'the

grace

of God.'

Looking on the religious life of Plato as the outcome, in some measure, of the doctrine and life of his two immediate predecessors, each

one of whom presented in the facts of his own experience new Divine acts, and so increased the range of the revelation, we are able to account for the growth in him of theoretic and practical theology, which he himself supposed to require direct Divine authority. Thus, when discussing the question of immortality in Phaedo, he makes Simmias to say, 'I daresay you, Socrates, feel, as I do, how very hard, or almost impossible, is the attainment of certainty about such questions as these in the present life. And yet I should deem him a coward who did not prove what is said about them to the uttermost, or whose heart failed him before he had examined them on every side. For he should persevere until he has attained one of two things, either he should discover the truth about them, or, if that is impossible, I would have him take the best and most irrefragable of human notions, and let this be the raft with which he sails through life—not without risk, as I admit—if he cannot find some word of God which will more safely carry him.'

With such a mode of study, and with the example of Socrates to guide him, it is not surprising that he should sum up his inquiry into the nature of virtue, in Meno, with this

conclusion, “That virtue is neither natural nor acquired, but an instinction given by God to the virtuous ; ' nor that he recognised the grace of God' as the source of all correct thinking, right emotion, and natural action. The morality of The Laws could only have been derived from a preponderance of just conceptions of the relations of man to God, and of man to man. And the ability he shows in tracing the evidence of these relations, from the nature of individual and associated man, proves not only the reality of those direct revelations from which he started, but also the adequacy of that vital union with God for which we contend, to develop to the full extent of human need those primary truths in the thought and emotion of men. It was the naturalness or reality of the doctrine embodied in The Dialogues which caused them to be so generally received at once, which gave them the highest educational power of the time, and which has preserved them fresh, vigorous, and instructive through all succeeding ages.

At this distance we are able to trace the reformatory power of these three wonderful lives; but it is impossible for us to calculate the deterioration which would have ensued had not the demoralizing mythology of the poets been met by this power of living godliness, exhibited through three long lives in full force, and then embalmed in completed form in the works of the last : a memorial for all ages of Divine and human interaction.

Similar cases to the two just considered, we have in Buddha and Confucius.

But as we have only the testimony of their disciples of a much later date, who have developed the doctrines of their masters after a manner of their own, so we are not able to trace them from their source to their consequences in the wide and general reformation they effected. But we have in both a return to primitive simplicity and purity by the agency of devout men, which is the Divine order in all the cases which are fully before us.

Thus we have seen that, from the beginning, man has known God as the Maker, Upholder, and Ruler of all things; that a way of access has been opened by which intercourse with God, such as a man has with his friend, may be attained; that at all times some have availed themselves of this way; that this intercourse has been the means of the purest

men

and highest virtue in them who have enjoyed it; that from time to time God has employed suitably endowed in fellowship with Himself to arouse the slumbering and fallen ; and that by His providence He has preserved the primary truths among all nations, and at various times He has so interfered for the support and deliverance of His servants, and for the suppression of idolatry, as to show that He, the Author and Sustainer of the universe, was there, acting in His own proper sphere ; and thus He has from time to time granted new revelations of Himself, and given new life to buried truth. This has been done from the time of the primitive promise until the incarnation of the Son of God, which has completed and confirmed all previous revelation.

к

« ÎnapoiContinuați »