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phy, and gathered about them a few disciples to be scattered at their death. Jesus was sent by God to be the Saviour of the world, to lay the foundation of a society which should never cease to exist; as he himself prophesied on making his first convert, “ Thou art surnamed the Rock, and upon this rock will I build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The words of those sages are proposed to the minds of men to be accepted or rejected as may seem to them good. The words of Jesus judge the nations, and decide the destiny of the human soul.
Anaxagoras, Thales, Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, Xenophon, Aristotle, were the names of the principal luminaries, which rising upon the thick darkness of the heathen world, kept up a sort of star-light after the setting of the Hebrew prophets, and before the coming of the Sun of Righteousness. About the time of the return of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity, and during the lifetime of the last writers of the Old Testament, there appeared in Athens the most remarkable man of pagan antiquity. This was Socrates, whose name and character. have become the heritage of all time. In him was exhibited such a wonderful combination of intellectual wisdom and moral excellence, such a purity of life combined with active benevolence, that he has been in subsequent times the admiration not only of the heathen, but the Chris
tian world. And when we compare his life with that of the majority under the Gospel, we are forcibly reminded of the words of Christ, when he said: “Many shall come from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south, and sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, and the children of the kingdom shall be cast out."
Socrates was the son of a statuary, left early in life on his own resources to support himself by the labor of his own hands. But he early discovered intellectual
powers of the first order, and a thirst for knowledge which nothing could repress. Athens had already become the centre of learning and art, and almost every science had able teachers by whom the studious might be trained to usefulness and accomplishment. A wealthy citizen, discovering his ardent love of knowledge, became his patron, and by appointing him preceptor of his children, relieved him from the necessity of manual labor, and gave him an opportunity to complete his education under the best masters. He soon became the greatest mind of the city, and of the world. But what sanctified his great talents and acquirements, and made him such a blessing to the world, was the fact, that he cultivated his moral as well as his intellectual nature. In him that pride and selfishness, which are often excited by the possession of great talents and splendid acquisitions, found no place. His heart grew with his understanding, his integrity he kept unstained, and when he arrived at that age when other men of his times were forming their schemes of private ambition, were devising measures of turning their advantages to the best account, of amassing wealth, of seizing on the offices and honors of their country, Socrates renounced every selfish pursuit, and devoted his noble powers to the office of the moral instruction and improvement of his fellow men. He saw, that what his countrymen wanted, was not so much intellectual cultivation as moral discipline. He saw that humanity in his times was receiving a disproportionate development. The mind grew gigantic, while the conscience and the heart became shrivelled and impotent. He saw that man with such an education becomes more intelligent only to become more mischievous and miserable. Declining those metaphysical investigations into the nature of things, which had almost exclusively occupied the studies of his predecessors, he directed his attention to moral and social duty. He bent the whole force of his mind to persuade mankind to lead a temperate, sober, just and religious life, to curb their fierce passions, and to bear their troubles with patience. “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue or any praise,” these things he taught them to think upon, and diligently to pursue. Though he was himself poor, he taught without money and without price. He was always in public; wherever he found listeners, there was to him an opportunity of doing good.
His own life was a pattern of every virtue which he taught. We have a picture of his life from two of his most worthy and illustrious disciples. One of them has left on record the following testimony. “The man,” says Xenophon, “whose memoirs I have written, was so pious that he undertook nothing without asking counsel of the gods, so just, that he never did the smallest injury to any one, but rendered essential services to many; so temperate, that he never preferred pleasure to virtue, and so wise that he was able, even in the most difficult cases, without advice, to judge what was expedient. He was eminently qualified to assist others by his counsel, to penetrate into men's characters, to reprehend them for their vices, and to excite them to the practice of virtue. Having found all these excellencies in Socrates, I have ever esteemed him as the most virtuous and the happiest of men.”
But strange as it may seem, this most eminent sage and philanthropist, so far from meeting the honor and the reward that he merited, received from his fellowcitizens the basest ingratitude. He was maliciously accused, and judicially murdered, in the very city to whose prosperity he had devoted his life. But over
such a man death had no power. It only shed a brighter lustre over a blameless and heroic life. He drank with calmness the fatal cup; and heathen as he was, the cheerfulness and hope, which sustained him in his last hours, demonstrated the universality of that truth, which is so beautifully expressed in the deep spiritual philosophy of St. John. “Brethren, if our hearts condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God." "It would be inexcusable in me,” said he, “ to despise death, were I not persuaded that it will conduct me into the presence of the gods, who are the most righteous governors, and into the society of just and good men; but I derive confidence from the hope, that something of man remains after death, and that the condition of good men will be much better than that of the bad."
The influence of the mind and character of Socrates has not faded out of the world to the present hour. One of his pupils, whose mind his great intellect did most to form, may be said to have dictated the religious and philosophical opinions of the civilized world for centuries, and to have essentially modified the doctrines of the Christian church. And another disciple of the same school reigned a sort of intellectual dictator for a thousand years.
Such were some of the instruments by which God poured light into the world in those intermediate ages between the close of the Old Testament and the