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by being the jailor, and even the executioner, of the disciples of Jesus; Peter had denied Jesus; and we have seen that the dawning, suffering, militant, triumphant church, has always been divided, from the Ebionites to the Jesuits.
I think that the Brachmans, so anterior to the Jews, might well have been divided also; but they were the first who imposed upon themselves the law of not eating any animal. As they believed that souls passed and repassed from human bodies to those of beasts, they would not eat their relations. Perhaps their best reason was the fear of accustoming men to carnage, and inspiring them with ferocious manners.
We know that Pythagoras, who studied geometry and morals among them, embraced this humane doc-> trine, and brought it into Italy. His disciples followed it a very long time: the celebrated philosophers, Plotinus, Jamblicus, and Porphyry, recommended and even practised it;—though it is very rare to practise what is preached. The work of Porphyry on abstinence from meat, written in the middle of our third century, and very well translated into our language by M. de Burigni, is very much esteemed by the learned; but it has not made more disciples among us than the book of the physician Héquet. It is in vain that Porphyry proposes, as models, the Brahmins and Persian magi of the first class, who had a horror of the custom of burying the entrails of other creatures in our own; he is not now followed by the fathers of La Trappe. The work of Porphyry is addressed to one of his ancient disciples, named Firmus, who it is said turned christian, to have the liberty of eating meat and drinking wine.
He shows Firmus, that in abstaining from meat and strong liquors, we preserve the health of the soul and body; that we live longer and more innocently. All his reflections are those of a scrupulous theologian, of a rigid philosopher, and of a mild and sensible mind. We might think, in reading his work, that this great enemy of the church was one of its fathers.
He speaks not of metempsychosis, but he regards animals as our bretheren, because they are animated
like ourselves; they have the same principles of life; they have, as well as ourselves, ideas, sentiment, memory and industry. They want but speech ; if they had it, should we dare to kill and eat them; should we dare to commit these fratricides? Where is the barbarian who would roast a lamb, if it conjured him by an affecting speech not to become at once an assassin, an anthropophagus?
This book proves at least, that among the Gentiles there were philosophers of the most austere virtue; but they could not prevail against butchers and gluttons.
It is to be remarked, that Porphyry makes a very fine eulogium on the Essenians : he is filled with veneration for them, although they sometimes eat meat. He was for whoever was the most virtuous, whether Essenians, Pythagoreans, Stoics, or Christians. When sects are formed of a small number, their manners are pure; and they degenerate in proportion as they become powerful. Lust, gaming, and luxury, then prevail, and all the virtues fly away:
Lagola, il dado e l'otiose piume
It is said of Marcus Brutus, that before killing himself, he pronounced these words—“Oh! Virtue, I believed that thou wert something, but thou art only a vile phantom!"
Thou wast right, Brutus, if thou madest virtue consist in being the chief of a party and the assassin of thy benefactor, of thy father, Julius Cæsar. Hadst thou made virtue to consist only in doing good to those. who depended on thee, thou wouldst not have called it a phantom, or have killed thyself in despair.
I am very virtuous, says a miserable excrement of theo. logy: I possess the four cardinal virtues and the three theological ones. An honest man asks him,—What are the cardinal virtues? The other answers,—They are fortitude, prudence, temperance, and justice.
If thou art just, thou hast said all. Thy fortitude, prudence, and temperance, are useful qualities : if thou possessest them, so much the better for thee; but if thou art just, so much the better for others. It is not sufficient to be just; thou shouldst be beneficent; this is being truly cardinal. And thy theological virtues, what are they?
Is there virtue in believing? If that which thou believest seems to thee to be true, there is no merit in believing it; if it seems to thee to be false, it is impossible for thee to believe it.
Hope should no more be a virtue than fear; we fear and we hope, according to what is promised or threat
As to charity, is it not that which the Greeks and Romans understood by humanity-love of your neighbour? This love is nothing, if it does not act; beneficence is therefore the only true virtue.
THEOLOGIAN. What a fool! Yes, truly, I shall trouble myself to serve men, if I get nothing in return! Every trouble merits payment. I pretend to do no good action, except to insure myself paradise.
Quis enim virtutem amplectitur, ipsam
JUVENAL, sat. x.
Ah! good sir, that is to say, that if you did not hope for paradise, or fear hell, you would never do a good action. You quote me lines from Juvenal, to prove to
you have only your interest in view. Racine could at least show you, that even in this world we might find our recompense, while waiting for a better :
Quel plaisir de penser, et dedire en vous-même,
Le ciel dans tous leurs pleurs ne m'entend point nommer;
Racine-Britannicus, act iv. sc. ii.
Such were your pleasures ! Believe me; doctor, there are two things which deserve to be loved for themselves, God and Virtue.
THEOLOGIAN. Ah! sir, you are a Fenelonist.
HONEST MAN. Yes, doctor.
THEOLOGIAN. I will inform against you at the tribunal of Meaux.
HONEST MAN. Go, and inform!
What is virtue ? Beneficence towards your neighbour. Can I call virtue anything but that which does good? I am indigent, thou art liberal. I am in danger, thou succourest me. I am deceived, thou tellest me the truth. I am neglected, thou consolest
I am ignorant, thou teachest me. I can easily call thee virtuous, but what will become of the cardinal and theological virtues? Some will remain in the schools.
What signifies it to me whether thou art temperate ? It is a precept of health, which thou observest; thou art the better for it; I congratulate thee on it. Thou hast faith and hope; I congratulate thee still more; they will procure thee eternal life. Thy theological virtues are celestial gifts; thy cardinal ones are excellent qualities, which serve to guide thee; but they are not virtues in relation to thy neighbour. The prudent man does himself good; the virtuous one does it to other
St. Paul was right in telling thee, that charity ranks above faith and hope.
But how! wilt thou admit of no other virtues than those which are useful to thy neighbour?—How can I admit any others? We live in society; there is therefore nothing truly good for us but that which does good to society. An hermit will be sober, pious, and dressed in sackcloth : very well; he will be holy; but I will not call him virtuous until he shall have done some act of virtue by which men may have profited. Whilst he is alone, he is neither beneficent nor the contrary; he is nobody to us. If St. Bruno had made peace in families, if he had assisted the indigent, he had been virtuous; having fasted and prayed in solitude, he is only a saint. Virtue between men is a commerce of good actions : he who has no part in this commerce, must not be reckoned. If this saint were in the world, he would doubtless'do good, but whilst he is not in the world, we have no reason to give him the name of virtuous : he will be good for himself, and not for us.
But, say you, if an hermit is gluttonous, drunken, given up to a secret debauch with himself, he is vicious; he is therefore virtuous, if he has the contrary qualities. I cannot agree to this : he is a very vile man, if he has the faults of which you speak; but he is not vicious, wicked, or punishable by society, to which his infamies do no harm. It may be presumed, that if he re-enters society, he will do evil to it; he then will be very vicious; and it is even more probable that he will be a wicked man, than it is certain that the other temperate and chaste hermit will be a good man; for in society faults augment, and good qualities diminish.
A much stronger objection is made to me: Nero, pope Alexander VI., and other monsters of the kind, have performed good actions. I reply boldly, that they were virtuous at the time.
Some theologians say, that the divine emperor Antoninus was not virtuous; that he was an infatuated