ing, 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

rs. 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

opening of the New. Such were the causes which disgusted the world with their old superstitions, and made Christ the desire of all nations, and when the Apostles went forth to summon them to a better faith, led them to abandon the impure worship of idol deities, and build temples on every shore to the only living and true God.

Lecture III.


MATTH. 28: 19.-Go ye therefore and teach all nations.

Such was the commission of Christ to the Apostles just before he left the earth; “Go teach all nations." It will be the purpose of this lecture to develope the circumstances in the state of the world, which made the fulfilment of this command possible, more so than ever before, and perhaps more so than it ever has been since. The two circumstances on which the practicability of this enterprise of teaching all nations depended, were the easy communication among all parts of the earth, and a common language all over the world, and moreover a time of peace, when the attention of mankind should not be engrossed in something else and so not at leisure to attend to the Gospel of salvation. This state of things was brought about by the almost universal diffusion of the Greek language, and the conquest of the world by the Roman arms. Another cause almost as essential, was the scattering of the Jews among all nations, for it was in their

« ElőzőTovább »