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place through looking unto Jesus: we are changed into His likeness —as, in His appearing, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”
Let us begin this year by coming into His presence waiting and looking up anew into that blessed, glorious Face. A wonderful thing it is to be able to do so from amid our daily tasks, our sorrows, our fears, our weary waitings. Through Divine aids, let us walk in its light all through the year, with this assurance of faith in our hearts: Thou settest me before Thy Face for ever.” This is the secret of victory over the world, and of a life of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.
For, oh, the Master is so fair,
He smiles so sweet on banished men,
The Last Words of Notable Men.
N the former paper on this subject we confined our illustrations to
proceed to notice the last words of some eminent men as they are recorded in the pages of secular history. In answer to the question, Who may be considered the most remarkable of uninspired men ? some would not hesitate to reply, Socrates is he. We leave it to learned men to decide how much of the character of the philosopher is reality, and how much of it is idealised by the splendid genius of Plato—“Who can decide when doctors disagree ?”* But taking for granted that the usual account of the Grecian sage is in the main the correct one, we need not hesitate to assert that he stands in the foremost rank of the mental heroes of mankind. Physically, as well as mentally, Socrates was very remarkable. “He was singularly ugly. As hideous as Marsyas the satyr, and as pot-bellied and bloated as Silenus; with great staring goggle eyes, he lent himself, as if made to their hands, to Aristophanes and the comic satirists of his time; and when a mask for Socrates was to be made, it was enough to copy the grotesqueness of his hideous face, much in the same way as Quasimodo in Victor Hugo's romance won the prize of ugliness by simply showing his natural features.” Moreover, his usual dress was coarse and inelegant, and generally he walked without shoes. He strutted about in a most supercilious manner, staring at everybody he met, except
when he was seized with an absent fit, and remained for a time rivetted to the spot. Such a strange body seemed fitted to be the abode of a strange soul, but it is difficult
“To find the mind's instruction in the face.” For just as the ugly toad was fabled to have “a precious jewel
in its head,” so in the grotesque body of Socrates really dwelt one of the sublimest of human spirits. He was, as most of our readers are aware, put upon his trial for “ Atheism” at Athens, condemned by his judges, and compelled to drink poison, of which he died, in the year 399 B.C. His “last words” are contained in one of the writings of Plato, called “ Phædon, or a Dialogue on the Immortality of the Soul”—a book well worth perusal, showing, as it forcibly does, what happy“ guesses at truth
even the heathen could sometimes make, and yet how dark the wisest of them were, apart from the teachings of inspired Scripture, and the Gospel of Him who has “ brought life and immortality to light."
“Whereupon Crito gave the sign to the slave that waited just by. The slave went out, and, after he had spent some time in preparing the poison, returned, accompanied by him that was to give it, and brought it altogether in one cup: Socrates, seeing him come in, said, “That is well, my friend; but what must I do? For you know best, and it is your business to direct me.'
“'You have nothing else to do,' says he, “but, whenever you have drunk it, to walk until you find your legs stiff, and then to lie down upon your bed. This is all you have to do.' And at the same time he gave him the cup,
“Socrates took it, not only without any commotion, or change of colour or countenance, but with joy, and, looking upon the follow with a bold and lively eye as he was wont to do, 'What do you say of this mixture,' says he, 'is it allowable to make a drink-offering of it ?'. Socrates,' replied the man,' we never make more at once than serves for a dose.'
“I understand you,' said Socrates, 'but, at least, it is lawful for me to pray to the gods. This I beg of them with all my soul, that they would bless the voyage and render it happy. Having said that, he drank it off with an admirable tranquillity and an inexpressible calmness.
“Hitherto wo had, almost all of us, the power to refrain from tears, but, when we saw him drink it off, we were no longer masters of ourselves. Notwithstanding all my efforts, I was obliged to cover my face with my mantle that I might freely give utterance to my feelings, for it was not alone Socrates's misfortune, but my own that I deplored in reflecting what a friend I was losing, Crito, likewise, could not abstain from weeping, and Apollodorus, who had scarce ceased to shed tears duriug the whole conference, did then howl and cry aloud so as to move every one with his lamentations. Socrates himself alone remained unmoved; on the contrary, he reproved them. What are you doing, my friends ?' says he. What ! such fine men as you are! O! where is virtue ? Was it not for that I sent off those women ? I have always heard it said that a man ought to die in tranquillity, and blessing God. Be easy, then, and show more constancy and courage. These words filled us with confusion, and forced us to suppress our sorrows.
“In the meantime he continued to walk, and, when he felt his legs stiff, he lay down on his back, as the man had ordered him. At this time, the same person who gave him the poison came up to him, and, after looking upon his legs and feet, bound up his feet with all force and asked him if he felt it? He said, 'No.' Then he bound up his legs, and, having carried his hands higher, gave us the signal that he was quite cold. Socrates likewise felt himself with his hand, and told us that, when the cold came up to his heart, he should leave us. And then,
uncovering himself,—for he was covered— Crito,' says he, these were his last words, We owe a cock to Æsculapius ; discharge this vow for me and do not forget it.' 'It shall be done,' says Crito, but see if you have anything else to say to us. He made no answer, and, after a little space of time, departed. The man, who was still by him, having uncovered him, received his last looks, which continued fixed upon him. Crito, seeing that, came up and closed his mouth and eyes.
"This, Echecrates, was the exit of our friend; a man who, beyond all dispute, was the best, the wisest, and the justest of all our acquaintance.”
Thus meekly and bravely, as Lord Macaulay writes, did the first great martyr of intellectual liberty take the poison cup from his weeping gaoler.
If Socrates was a great king in the realms of speculative thought, we may say of Julius Cæsar that he was a mighty monarch in the realms of practical life. He was one of the greatest of the Romans, one of the greatest of the human
He was mighty in many modes—a literary man, an orator, a mathematician, a great statesman, and a successful warrior. He was foremost alike among the civilised and the savage races of mankind. He wrote books, invented the ablative case in the Latin language, made alterations in the calendar which remain to this day; he conquered many of the Eastern and Celtic nations of his time, and made himself complete master of the mighty Roman world. The energy of Cæsar's character, his personal accomplishments and courage, his talents for war, and his capacity for civil affairs combine to render him one of the most remarkable men of any age. Though a lover of pleasure, and a man of licentious habits, he never neglected what was a matter of business. He began that active career which has immortalised his name when he was forty years of age-a time of life when ordinary men's powers of enterprise are deadened or extinguished. As a writer and an orator he has received the highest praise from Cicero; his commentaries, written in a plain, perspicuous style, entirely free from all affectation, place bim in the same class with Xenophon and those few individuals who have successfully united the pursuit of letters and philosophy with the business of active life. His projects were vast and magnificent, he seems to have formed designs far beyond what the ability of one man could execute, or the longest life could expect to see realised.” As was natural in the case of such a man, he excited many enmities and was exposed to many conspiracies to which at last he fell a victim, being, as is well known, assassinated at Rome about forty-four years before the beginning of the Christian era. Our great dramatist, in his play of Julius Cæsar, has finely represented his hero as dying directly after the utterance of words in keeping with the texture of his imperial and imperious mind. We quote the words (Act III. Scene 1st.):
“I could be well moved, if I were as you;
If I could pray to move, prayers would move me:
And constant do remain to keep him so.' While uttering some such language the daggers of the conspirators flashed before his astonished eyes, and smote him with many wounds. His stoicism enabled him to remain for a short space calm and even silent in this terrible time, but when he saw his cherished friend Brutus among the assassins, he uttered his “last words"_“Et tu, Brutè ! and are you among them, my son ?”
Thus perished this great man, who, in some respects, almost deserved the honour conferred upon him by a contemporary medal, still extant in the British Museum, which calls him “ Divos Julius," the Divine Cæsar. The chief instruments of his death, Brutusand Cassius, were doubtless honourable and patriotic men, according to their light; lovers of liberty, and only hating Cæsar because they looked upon him as its chiefest foe. They afterwards took up arms for the restoration of the Republic ; but at the battle of Philippi, Augustus avenged his uncle's death : they were conquered there, and perished by their own hands—“Ultimi Romanorum, The last of the Romans.”
Most of our readers have heard of “The Apostolic Fathers.” The name is applied to five Christian teachers of the second century, who were favoured with the fellowship and instruction of some of the Apostles of the Lord, their names being Clemens Romanus, Ignatius, Barnabas, Hermas, and Polycarp. It is of the last of these venerable men that we wish now to speak. The word Polycarp means much fruit; and, whatever the design of his parents in giving him the name, he lived to justify his possession of it in the highest and holiest sense.
He was probably born a little later than the middle of the first century, and became a Christian about the year 80. He was personally acquainted with the Apostle John; was probably introduced to the ministry by the “disciple whom Jesus loved ;” and, according to an ancient tradition, was "the angel of the Church in Smyrna,” mentioned in the Book of the Revelation. Two works have come down to us in connection with Polycarp, both of which are still read with great interest—the former being an “Epistle to the Philippians,” from his pen; and the other, “The Relation of the Martyrdom of Polycarp," written by some of the members of the Church at Smyrna. În the Epistle, about forty passages of the Christian Scriptures are quoted, which may be seen in the second volume of Dr. Lardner's “Credibility of the Gospel History.” “The Relation of the Martyrdom ” also contains several quotations from the New Testament--a proof, of course, that the Inspired Volume existed in the second century substantially as we possess it in the nineteenth. But we wish especially to refer to the last moments of this sainted man. The Apostle John lived to be a hundred years old; but his disciple Polycarp lived probably more than a century, and at last ended his venerable life in the fires of martyrdom. The following quotation from Neander's Church History sketches the final scene, and records the “last words” of this "ancient disciple" of the Lord. He died at Smyrna about the middle of the second century.
"The people conveyed him to the city on an ass, where they were met by the chief officer of the police, coming with his father, from the town. He took up Polycarp into his chariot, and addressing him kindly, asked what harm there could be in saying, the Emperor, our Lord,' and in sacrificing. At first Polycarp was silent; but as they went on to urge him, he said mildly, 'I shall not do as you advise me.' When they perceived that they could not persuade him, they grew angry. With opprobrious language, he was thrust out of the carriage so violently as to injure a bone of one of his legs. Without looking
round, he proceeded on his way, cheerful and composed, as though nothing had happened. Having arrived before the proconsul, he was urged by the latter to have respect at least to his own old age; to swear by the genius of the Emperor, and give proof of his penitence, by joining in the shout of the people, Away with the godless!' Polycarp looked with a firm eye at the assembled crowd, pointing to them with his finger; then with a sigh, and his eyes uplifted to heaven, he said, 'Away with the godless !' But when the proconsul urged him farther, ‘Swear, curse Christ, and I release Thee. Six and eighty years, the old man replied, ' have I served Him, and He has done me nothing but good; and how could I curse Him, my Lord and Saviour ?' The proconsul stilì persisting to urge him, 'Well,' said Polycarp, 'If you would know what I am, I tell you frankly, I am a Christian. Would you know what the doctrine of Christianity is, appoint me an hour and hear me.' The proconsul, who showed here how far he was from sharing in the fanatic spirit of the people, how gladly he would have saved the old man if he could have appeased the multitude, said, 'Do but persuade the people.' Polycarp replied, "To you I was bound to give account of myself, for our religion teaches us to pay due honour to the powers ordained of God, so far as it can be done without prejudice to our salvation. But those I regard as not worthy of hearing me defend myself before them.' The governor having once more threatened him in vain with the wild beasts and the stake, caused it to be proclaimed by the herald in the circus, *Polycarp has declared himself to be a Christian!'. With these words was pronounced the sentence of death. The heathen populace, with an infuriate shout, replied, “This is the teacher of Atheism, the father of the Christians, the enemy of our gods, by whom so many have been turned from the worship of the gods, and from sacrifice. The proconsul having yielded to the demands of the people, that Polycarp should die at the stake, Jews and Pagans hastened together, to bring wood from the shops and the baths. As they were about to fasten him with nails to the stake of the pile, he said, 'Leave me thus; He who has strengthened me to encounter the flames, will also enable me to stand firm at the stake.' Before the fire was lighted, he prayed, 'Lord, Almighty God, Father of Thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ, through whom we have received from Thee the knowledge of Thyself; God of angels, and of the whole creation; of the human race, and of the just that live in Thy presence; I praise Thee that Thou hast judged me worthy of this day, and of this hour, to take part in the number of Thy witnesses, in the cup of Thy Christ.' And thus the good man happily and triumphantly entered the "fiery chariot,” which conveyed him to “ the realms of the blest."
We will next speak concerning the last days and “the last words" of Constantine the Great. There are two sides to the character of this notable man, and, according as we view the one or the other, we are inclined to pour forth fervid praise or utter sharpest censure. In “the ages of faith,” so called, his biographers termed him saint, equal to the apostles, God's high priest, the second founder of the Christian Church, and the very foremost among the greatest benefactors of the human race; while those who look much at the dark side of his character speak of him as a grotesque mixture of fanatical piety and senseless paganism; who struck medals, with Apollos on one side and Jesus Christ on the other; who was the first of Christian emperors, and yet deferred his own baptism till the time of his death; who