« PreviousContinue »
most distinguished philosophers of antiquity, had no sensible effect on this condition of the ancients. About 550 years before Christ, arose in China, Confucius, a descendant of the royal family-a man of high rank and great excellence. He must have been acquainted with the Old Testament, and have heard at a distance the thunders of Sinai, or the Almighty must in a still small voice have spoken to the soul of this just and good man revealing his law. This great and good moralist, taught the duty of doing to others, as we would they should do to us and the doctrines of peace, justice, and equity. He enjoined upon all men, to conform their actions to right reason, which he called the sovereign good. Peace, he commended as the mother of plenty. He taught benevolence and pure morals; but he frankly informs us, that his instructions were without suc. cess, and that the Chinese princes and people fail. ed to embrace or practise his excellent doctrines.
About a century and a half after Confucius, arose Socrates, the most eminent philosopher of antiquity. He rose far above Confucius, for while he taught the same sound morality and sweet benevolence, he ascended to the high truth of the immortality of the soul, and the existence of God, who created it. From the perfect purity and benevolence of the Deity, and the emanation of the
human soul from that fountain of excellence, he deduced the doctrines of the immortality of the soul, and its obligation to conform to its divine original. For proclaiming these truths, Socrates was arraigned as a criminal, tried, condemned, and executed by poison. The only effect of his philosophy which we can trace, is found in the writings of Plato and Cicero.
Cicero, the first orator and philosopher of Rome, lived in the age preceding the Christian era. He learned from Plato the doctrine of immortality, and his moral sense seems to have been more enlightened than that of any contemporary. But this great man maintained the right of nations to make wars, of conquest, glory, and to enslave captives; and he himself sold prisoners taken in war as slaves. He held that masters ought to com, pel their slaves to work, and to pay them for their services, as though they were hired laborers; but he seems not to have conceived of the injustice of enslaving a conquered people. At the time Cicero wrote, some Romans had 20,000 slaves, and slavery and war had destroyed the morals and industry of the people; yet Cicero did not discover the root of the evil. The conspiracy of Cataline, and the murder of his fellow conspirators at Rome by order of the consul Cicero and the Senate, and the subsequent assassination of Cicero, by order of the Triumvirate, evince the small effect upon Rome of the moral precepts of the philosophers. In the time of Cicero, also occurred the murder of Cæsar, in full Senate. These events show us, that Cicero found, and left Rome steeped in injustice, cruelty, and blood. This great man's doctrines were in advance of his age on many subjects; but his belief in the immortality of the soul, seems not to have led him to any general and comprehensive view of ethics and morals. His discoveries were partial, and had no practical effect, except to bring down upon his memory, at a remote period, the hatred of the Emperors Diocletian and Galerius, and their pagan followers.
Such are the lessons taught us by antiquity. We behold man's unassisted wisdom of no avail, and injustice and violence filling the earth with desolation and misery. We desire a higher-a nobler principle of human action; we look to heaven for the source and the sanction of morality. We shall seek for the law of God, as illustrated by the history of nations since the time of Abraham. In tracing the progress of man, from the dawn of society, we shall discover that God's moral laws are as unchangeable, as the physical laws of planetary motion; and that it is impossible for a nation to contravene the moral principles
of its being with impunity. A comet might as easily escape from its orbit, as a nation from the moral obligations and penalties of God's supreme law. In endeavoring to unfold the elements essential to national prosperity and existence, and the celestial doctrines of peace, equity, and mercy, as national duties, we are aware, that our work will be novel, and our efforts to overturn war and its atrocities, may be vain. Confident that truth and justice will prevail, and believing, that the perfect civilization of the Gospel, must be brought about by the discovery and application of the moral laws impressed upon man's nature, we proceed with our adventurous task. Knowing our own inability, we look for inspiring aid to the great Fountain of Light. Humbly invoking celestial aid, in the language of Milton we would say:
“And chiefly Thou, O, Spirit, that dost prefer
Before all temples, th' upright heart and pure,
A CRITICAL REVIEW OF HISTORY, FROM THE TIME OF ABRAHAM, SHOWING A MORAL LAW OF NATIONS EN: JOINING PEACE, EQUITY, AND MERCY, AND PUNISHING BY NECESSITY THE VIOLATION OF IT.
We intend, in this chapter, to unfold the law of nature, as the providence of God has impressed it upon the history of nations, commanding right, and with severe penalties prohibiting wrong.
By the light of reason, Confucius, Socrates, and Cicero, among the ancients, discovered that men were bound to one another by the obligations of justice and benevolence. Confucius declared it a duty to love all mankind-to promote peace, courtesy, and kindness; and that men ought to do to others, as they would that they should do unto them. This he called right reason, and the sovereign good; and he addressed this doctrine to princes and people. Socrates deduced from the soul's immortality and emanation from God, the same social duties; and he held, that the actions of men should conform to God's nature in justice