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himself called by the divinity to persuade his countrymen to virtue and rational religion. For this end, he chose, though not ostentatiously, a life of poverty and self-denial, looking for his best reward to a consciousness of integrity in this life, and a happy immortality. Original in thought and eloquent in language, though so ungainly in person as to resemble a satyr, he soon drew around him many fola lowers, and among them the noblest in birth and character of the Athenians. Yet this blamelessness and usefulness of life soon excited against him many enemies, in the vicious and turbulent democracy of his native city. The sophists, or false philosophers, who have given their name to the vexatious quibbles in which they delighted, were especially enraged against him, for he fearlessly exposed their mercenary quackery; and because he taught that there was one supreme overruling Providence, whose just eyes could not be blinded by the smoke of sacrifices,' but loved virtuous actions better than sumptuous forms, they accused him of impiety against the gods. Taking advantage also of the fact, that he had peculiar pleasure in teaching young men, they charged him with an unnatural crime, then lamentably prevalent. This prompted Aristophanes, a comic poet, whose gross blackguardism shows the baseness of his soul, to bold the teacher of virtue up to ridicule, in his comedy of the Clouds,' showing the venerable man hanging ridiculously in a basket, and teaching the most disorganizing doctrines. The comedy was not indeed successful at first, Socrates himself laughing at it; but few characters can bear up against ridicule ; and the poison then began to work, which three-and-twenty years after resulted in a grave public indictment against him for impiety and corrupting the youth. Against these charges he made an eloquent and dignified defence, retracting none of his sentiments, denying the charge of crime, and asserting that his countrymen owed him reward, not punishment. It availed him nothing against the cruel hate of wicked men. Some say the multitude believed the charges; others, that they were exasperated against him, because Critias, a renegade disciple of his, whom he openly rebuked for his oppression, was one of the thirty tyrants, that the Spartan Lysander set over the Athenians, and who deluged the city with blood. But alas ! we know too well the treatment which wise and good men receive, when they oppose the will of a blind and brutal populace, and need only to be told of the integrity of Socrates, to account for his condemnation by a people who had already banished Aristides, because they were tired of hearing him called the just. Athens has not been the only state, where public virtue has been the least claim to popular favor; or where it were not easier to gain power by flattering the people than by serving them. Alas! again, it is human nature, which loves even tyranny better than honest counsel ; for, in the language of the modern Euripides, the pure, classical Talfourd :
"The cloven hearted world Is ever eager thus to own a lord,
And patriots smite for it in vain.' The best defence of Socrates is found in the remorse of the Athenians. They prosecuted his accusers as enemies to the state, putting Melitus, one of the two most active, to death, and banishing the other,
Anytus, who was so universally execrated, that he found no place of refuge, but was stoned by the people of Heraclea, after they had cast him out of their city; and it is said that when the Palamede* of Euripides was performed, and an actor pronounced the line :
'You have given to cruel death the best of all the Greeks! the whole audience, reminded of Socrates, burst into tears, and the theatre resounded with lamentations ; for which reason they made a decree that his name should not be spoken in public any more.
A high testimony to the purity of his character is also found in the confession of Alcibiades, who, though he left bis great teacher that he might pursue projects of ambition and luxurious pride, declared, that he'blushed at his way of life, whenever he thought of Socrates, and at times almost wished him dead, and no longer a witness of his pupil's shame.'t
Condemned, however, he was to drink the fatal hemlock. Thirty days (owing to some religious ceremonies) elapsed between his sentence and his death, which was not only worthy of his life, but the summit of its admirable virtue. He spent these mournful days, (mournful to those who loved him, but full of calm and unfailing hope to the martyr himself,) in conversing cheerfully with his disciples, exhorting them to remain stedfast in the virtue he had taught them, and confidently to expect a happy immortality in the divine presence, as the reward of it. An account of this sad interval is given us in the Phædon of Plato, the simplest and most affecting of all his writings. It were in vain to attempt translating the dying scene from the Greek, for the very words seem to sob, and the sentences moan as if they came from a broken heart, so that it has won from the learned of all ages the tribute of tears, as if our universal nature suffered in him. Crito, his friend, at one time, by bribing the jailer, had made every arrangement for his escape ; but the consistant friend of social order smiled at his zeal, and refused to fly from a mortality which he would soon meet, wherever he might go; declaring, that the injury done to him, under color of the law, was no reason why he should do wrong by rebelling against the public authority. Speaking kindly to the executioner, who prepared the poison, and presented it to him, not without tears, he calmly drank it amidst the loud sobbings his friends could no longer restrain, and walking up and down his cell, he greatly comforted them, until the torpor seized his limbs ; then lying down, he wrapped his mantle around him, and with a slight tremor, 'the best, the wisest, and the most just, of Athens,' breathed his last, leaving to all ages the blest assurance,
Shall, in the happy trial, prove most glory.':
* This play is lost, but some fragments, and among them this sentence, are preserved.
EURIPIDES. GLAS. ED., Vol. VI., 643. Plato. # Milton's Comus.
in which he lived, as remarkable for their purity and elevation, as his life. Before him, the inquiry of philosophers had been chiefly into physical causes ; and though some most interesting sayings of the wise men of Greece, and Anaxagoras in particular, are recorded, yet it is generally admitted that Socrates was the first to study and teach morals as a science.
Cicero expressly says: "Socrates was the first who brought down philosophy from the skies, placed it in cities, introduced it into families, and obliged it to examine into life and morals, good and evil."* Indeed, he seems to have had an unjust contempt for all science, except that of mind, thinking it better for us to inquire what we ought to do, than what the Deity had done. He was provoked to this by the vain and quibbling theorists of his day; but could he have known the moral dignity which in modern times those sciences have acquired, or have been surrounded by such expositors of physical truth as now adorn the world, he would never have deemed it necessary to deny their studies, that he might exalt his own. Socrates was, however, as he has been described by the ingenious though often erroneous historian of Ethical Philosophy, ‘more a teacher of virtue, than even a searcher after truth.' Hence his opinions, though remarkable, were few.
He believed most firmly in the existence and providence of one supreme, self-existent, and spiritual God. Of him he often speaks in the singular number, delighting to give him the name of the Superintending God, or the God who wisely and tenderly cares for
This God, he believed, could only be served by sincere virtue, having more regard to the hearts of men, than the most costly sacrifices ; quoting, with high commendation, an oracle which declared, that God loved the thanksgivings of the Lacedæmonians better than all the sumptuous offerings of the Greeks ; for,' said he, it is absurd to think that Deity, like a false judge, can be bribed by presents.' He taught the duty of prayer, which he said required much precaution and attention, and gave his followers what he called a most excellent and safe form of petition, which was : ‘Great God ! give us the good things that are necessary for us, whether we ask them or not; and keep evil things from us, even when we pray to thee for them. He believed that virtue consisted in obedience to the supreme will of God, which we were to learn from the fitness of things; and there can be little doubt that he would have rejected, as a vexatious dispute of the sophists, the question, which some have started, whether there is not a radical distinction between right and wrong, antecedent to the divine will. Virtue, he believed, was always rewarded, and vice always punished, by the Supreme Governor; and though in this life wrong might seem to be more successful, the seeming inequality would be compensated in another. For he believed also in the immortality of the soul, and declared that though he knew nothing of the manner of our existence after death, it could not be otherwise but that the Deity would take just men to be happy with himself, and banish the wicked to a correspondent misery.
These were the principal and fundamental articles of his belief,
upon which he based all his instructions, and from which he derived that lofty courage, which sustained him, throughout life, in his virtue. Plato, his ingenious disciple, less modest than his master, has carried them out still farther ; but, as we have said before, his speculations are not to be taken as the sentiments of Socrates.
It will doubtless be asked, if the opinions of Socrates, respecting the unity of the Sovereign God, were so pure, how it was that he himself engaged in the worship of the many gods of Athens, composing hymns to some of them, during the interval he spent in prison, and ordering a cock to be sacrificed to Esculapius, the god of health, as Plato says he did, in his last moments ? Several things ought, however, to be considered here. In the first place, it has always appeared to me not an improbable opinion, that his disciples, eager to vindicate his fame with the multitude, for their own sakes, invented of him, in these respects, what was not strictly true. And then again, Socrates, though convinced of the Supreme Divinity, was yet, as we shall show, confessedly ignorant of the manner in which he should be publicly honored, and might have thought it unwise to distrust the existing modes of worship, or to neglect them himself, until some better way was discovered, lest he should be thought to favor an atheism which he detested.* Certainly, if he had not been sincere in his opinions, he need not have died under sentence of the law; as he might have averted his condemnation by timely recanting. Beside, it is not fairly honest to condemn a man for what he did in the last moment of mortal weakness. Socrates wished his last act to be an act of piety; and if that act was ordering a sacrifice to a false god, because he knew no better, it is, I repeat, most uncharitable to condemn so good a man for one such act, at such a time.
It should also be remembered, that Socrates, with his disciples, and Cicero among the Latins, used the word divine to signify intelligent being, because spiritually resembling God. They meant by divine what we mean by moral. It is, however, a doctrine of our own Scriptures, that the God of All employs angelic ministers to execute his will, whom the Jewish doctors call angels of Providence; and the belief in a number of inferior gods, was a corruption of that true opinion. Socrates was wrong, if he really worshipped them, but not wrong in applying to them the epithet divine, in his sense of it.
This also explains somewhat the assertion which Socrates is said frequently and seriously to have made, that he had within him a demon, or divine being, who rebuked him when he had done wrong, and urged him to do what was right.f He is supposed by many to have made these declarations, to gain greater respect for his doctrines, as Numa pretended to hold converse with the nymph Egeria, that the Romans might be better persuaded to receive his laws, and not intrude upon the privacy in which he prepared them. The ancients discussed the question as to the nature of this demon, or
* Theodorick de Curatione Græcorum.
+ Some stories of the interference of this familiar spirit, though gravely told, are too ridiculous for belief.
god, of Socrates, with great interest; and among the rest, Apulicus, a Latin disciple of Plato, (who lived in the second century of the Christian era,) has written a treatise, in which he learnedly treats of all the opinions which had been offered upon the subject. The conclusion to which he seems to come, (for he is not very clear in expressing himself,) is most probably the correct one. The in-dwelling divine spirit of Socrates was his conscience. Indeed, a modern has pronounced conscience to be 'God's vicegerent in the soul of man ;' and the poet Menander has a line to the same effect :
"In all mortals, conscience is God.'* The definition of Apulicus is curious, and deserves to be repeated. • He of whom I speak,' says he, 'dwells in the most profound recesses of the mind, a perfect guardian, a singular prefect, a domestic speculator, a proper curator, an intimate inspector, an assiduous observer, an inseparable arbiter, a reprobater of what is evil, an approver of what is good; and if he is legitimately attended to, sedulously known, and religiously reverenced, in the way he was reverenced by Socrates, with justice and innocence, will be a predicter in things uncertain, a premonitor in things dubious, a defender in things dangerous, and an assistant in want.'t
Another question will naturally arise in many minds, whether the fact of such opinions being held by heathen Socrates, does not argue against the necessity of divine revelation ? We answer no; but that, on the contrary, whatever be the arguments of the modern objector to a divine revelation, he has no right to claim Socrates as his associate.
For, in the first place, the moral opinions of Socrates were very defective. This is seen, among other instances, in the manner he treats of women. He never seems to consider their moral influence at all. They are only regarded by him as the mothers of the children of the state, and as little more than necessary evils. The hallowed influence of the marriage contract, and the vital connection of female purity with social happiness, was to him unknown. For in the beginning of the eighth book on the Republic, Plato (and I fear this time with too much truth) puts into his mouth the following startling sentence : « These things are now agreed on, that in this city, which is to be constituted in a perfect manner, the women are to be common, the children common, and the education common.' And there are many things of a like character recorded of him elsewhere. Knowing this, we need not wonder that we find him visiting the witty and learned Aspasia, and the less celebrated though clever Throdota, without appearing to think the less of them, that they followed the most infamous profession. Indeed, it is only where christianity has taught men to value the virtues of the heart more than physical strength and voluptuous pleasure, that women are raised to that influence in society, which, among us, they so well deserve, and so beautifully adorn. There only have men learned, that female
* Βρoτoις απασιν συνειδησις θεος.
† Apulicus in Dæm. Soc.