"Though mixed with God and Nature thou, I seem to love thee more and more."
The highest state of consciousness to which we attain is expressed by the old phrase that man feels himself a child of God. His energy feels back of it an infinite energy. His desires rest peacefully in some all-sufficing good. All that is highest and purest in him mingles with its divine source. He sees new and higher interpretations of his own life and other lives. All the human love he has ever experienced he holds as an abiding possession. There comes to him not so much the premonition of a future state as the consciousness of some state in which past, present, and future blend. He is free from illusions, and serene. It does not disturb him even to know that the vision will pass, and he will return to earth's level. He sees the truth, he feels the divine reality; and the certainty and the gladness are such that not even the prevision of his own relapse into dimmer perception can depress him. The hour speaks with command to the hours that are to follow; it bids them to fidelity, to love, to highest courage.
When turning from contemplation we throw ourselves into the work and the battle, a pulse of divine energy blends with our noblest effort, touches our joy with an ineffable sweetness, and hushes our sorrow like a child folded in its mother's arms.
The key of the world is given into our hands when we throw ourselves unreservedly into the service of the highest truth we know, "with fidelity to the right as God gives us to see the right." So it is that we may find ourselves
"Wedded to this goodly universe In love and holy passion."
A TRAVELER'S NOTE-BOOK
A tourist who roams for a brief while through some great country like England or Russia may jot down a few of the impressions which come home to him, making no pretense at completeness or symmetry of description. So, one who has journeyed like a hasty traveler over some passages in that vast tract of years which we describe as the classic and Christian civilizations, notes down in the following pages a few of the salient features that have impressed him. He has already prefaced this with a sort of outline map, drawn largely from familiar authorities, under the title "Our Spiritual Ancestry;" and has further ventured to interpret some phases of our own time, as "The Ideal of To-Day." Now he goes on to group a few observations on some special phases of the historical survey, disclaiming any attempt at exact proportion and perspective, but lingering where the prospect has pleased his fancy, or at points which seemed to yield some necessary clew or fruitful suggestion.
When, in the poems bearing the name of Homer, the curtain rises on the drama of man as it was acted in Greece, after the immeasurable prehistoric space, we are amazed at the sudden brilliance. The men and deeds brought before us are various in character and worth,—savage, heroic, repulsive, beautiful, by turns. But the ever-present charm is man seeing the world about him. It is the vividness with which every object is seen in its distinctive form and spirit, and conveyed by the fit word and phrase. So seen and spoken, the commonest object becomes a thing of delight. The high-roofed house, the brazen threshold, the polished chest, the silver-studded sword, the purple robes,—the tawny oxen, the hollow ships, the tapering oars,—the wine-dark sea, the rosy-fingered dawn, the gold-throned morning,—Hector of the nodding plume, the white-armed Nausicaa,—so in long procession moves the spectacle. A like distinctness invests all the actions and emotions of the story with charm. To us, as to the poet, the world becomes enchanted simply in being seen.
And presently we discover a strange transfiguration that is being wrought. Experiences which were painful or grievous to the actors and sufferers become in the representation the source of keen pleasure to the hearers or readers. The Iliad is mainly a story of men destroying one another. The Odyssey depicts a long strife with hardship and danger. The men who heard those songs were themselves familiar with the fight, with the wounds and terrors mixed with its energies and elations; they had tasted the perils of shipwreck and of pirates. But as they listened, the rehearsal of trials the counterpart of their own filled them with exhilaration. We who read in modern days, if less experienced in bloodshed and bodily peril, yet in some fashion have had our share of battle and storm; and we, too, like the first listeners, drink in the tale with delight. The poet, in other words, has the secret not only of seeing but of idealizing the actual world. We catch from him some subtle art by which, standing a little aloof from the pressure and turmoil around us, often felt as painful or degrading, we see it through an atmosphere in which it becomes a splendid and heart-stirring scene. At a later stage we may perhaps in a degree analyze the change of view; we may partly understand how through the struggle with evil man is strengthened and ennobled; how in such strife courage and sympathy and tenderness are engendered. But long before we can thus philosophize, and to a degree which our philosophy can hardly explain, we are affected by this beauty and elevation imparted to the spectacle of human life by the true poets.
We moderns read Homer with delight in the roll of the music, the vividness of the pictures, the humanity so near us in its essence and so unlike in its dress. When we inquire what are the moral ideals, we are often uncertain how far the impressions made on us may differ from those of the original audience, or the intention of the singer. But often his work is like the painting of great Nature herself. We pass upon it as we pass upon the facts of life.
The supernal features in the story are not here discussed. The deities, judged by our standards, have little of divinity. Beyond the grave lies a dim and dreamy realm. All this, with its great significance, we here omit, to linger a little on the essential and permanent humanity.
Achilles, the embodiment of power and passion, just touched with human ruth; Hector, the selfless, brave and gentle champion; Odysseus, victor in the long pilgrimage by fortitude and by wisdom,—these are the three ideal types of the early world, portrayed by its noblest genius.
The Iliad culminates in the triumph of pity. The heart of Zeus is melted, the harder heart of Achilles is melted, before the sorrows of bereaved old age. An exquisite gentleness breathes through the closing scenes. All the wrath and terror and savagery of the story have led up to this height of pure compassion. A new light falls on all that has gone before. Achilles, the fierce hero of the earlier story, is outshone by his victim, Hector of the great and gentle heart. The crowning word of praise, after father, mother, wife have uttered their lament, is spoken by the frail woman whose sin had brought ruin on Hector and his people: "If any other haply upbraided me in the palace halls, then wouldst thou soothe such with words, and refrain them by the gentleness of thy spirit and by thy gentle words. Therefore bewail I thee with pain at heart, and my hapless self with thee, for no more is any left in wide Troy-land to be my friend and kind to me, but all men shudder at me."
We see the sin of man and woman wrecking nations and leaving the sinner in dreary isolation. We see unrelenting wrath, even when provoked by wrong, spreading woe upon the innocent, and at last smiting the wrathful man through his dearest affections. We see the heroism which meets death in defense of the beloved, yet has only tender pity for her who has wrought the ruin.
The Iliad is mostly war,—men acting hell on earth, as Goethe said. But in the Odyssey the goal of the hero is his home. The magnet is not Helen's beauty, but Penelope's faithfulness. Odysseus, mighty warrior, crafty leader,—who with his sword has smitten the Trojans, by his wiles destroyed their city,—Odysseus is driven for ten years through hostile seas and men and gods by the compelling passion of home-sickness!
In the Odyssey, it is the battle with the sea which does most to toughen and supple and make indomitable. The soldier and sailor are the pioneers of the race. These and the tiller of the earth are the strong roots out of which are to grow the flower and fruit.
In the Iliad, woman appears in Helen as the tempting prize and the gage of battle, and in Andromeda as the tender wife foredoomed to bereavement and captivity. In the Odyssey, woman plays a higher part—as Penelope, faithful and prudent and patient wife, fit spouse for Odysseus; as Eurydice, the devoted old nurse; and as Nausicaa, loveliest of pristine maidens.
"The story of her worth shall never die; but for all humankind immortal ones shall make a gladsome song in praise of steadfast Penelope." It is a noble story: the fidelity of a wife, the undaunted courage of a man; a long battle with adversity, crowned with the joy of love's reunion; the meeting with servant, nurse, dog, son, wife, father.
Odysseus fights his battle as every hero must,—against hostile nature and man,—by courage and patience and craft, and a confidence that the heavenly power will somehow bring him through.
So at the heart of the Iliad and the Odyssey is an austere and sweet message. The singers who embodied it in tales which stir every pulse with delight were among the supreme teachers of mankind. The inner meaning of humanity's story which their songs display is still the lesson set us,—out of adversity man may win fortitude; through battle, shipwreck, and overthrow he scales the heights of manhood; and the faithful pilgrimage ends in a home which is dearer for all troubles past.
The Homeric poems show man in his first full awaking to beauty and to music. They show more. The fashioning of the supernal world in man's mind varies with people and with time. Here it is Zeus and Hades, again it will be Jehovah and Satan, and then Heaven and Hell. But in the Iliad and Odyssey the human heart recognizes its rightful lords as long as it shall endure,—Courage and Pity, Fortitude and Fidelity.
Socrates is the man who has actually achieved goodness, and tries to make a science and art of goodness, to find a way in which it can be clearly known and rationally and effectively taught. "Can virtue be taught?" is his characteristic question. The chief result of his keen scrutiny is to bring to light how little men really know of the higher life,—how little he knows of it himself. The effect of this revelation of ignorance is not a despair of truth, but a humility which is the beginning of wisdom. The deepest thing in Socrates is his knowledge of the good life as a reality, and of the joy and peace which it brings. Secure in this, he can go on in the most fearless temper, and even with light-hearted jesting, to sift the questions. Intellectually, his main achievement is to bring out clearly the problems to be faced, and to give an immense stimulus to the higher class of minds.
In the picture of Socrates by Xenophon in the Memorabilia, which bears all the marks of true portraiture, goodness goes with happiness and knowledge. It is a most winning combination—beautiful as a Greek statue. Xenophon lays stress on his happiness, but the basis is self-command. Among a people where even religion and philosophy were tolerant of sensuality, he was pure. He was hardy, trained to bear heat and cold, temperate, simple, faithful to civic duty, a reverent worshiper of the gods, watchful for the divine leading.
Xenophon shows him absorbed in teaching, imparting the best he has found, never so happy as when he can win a young man to virtue. His ideal society is the union of those who together are seeking goodness and knowledge.
His patience is shown under the worst of domestic annoyances, a scolding wife,—he says he thus learns to bear all other crosses. His admonition to his son to bear with her shows genuine tenderness.
He has the heroic quality. He resists the raging people, and refuses the part assigned him in voting the death sentence on the generals whose defeat had been a misfortune and not a fault. He calmly disobeys the Thirty Tyrants, at the risk of his life. He dies at last, a tranquil martyr to fearless truth-speaking.
He teaches nobly of Providence, the Supreme, the guidance from above. He conforms to the religion of his people, while planting a higher truth. When Athens, faithfully warned by him in vain, was sinking toward ruin and decay, he was sowing the seeds of spiritual harvests for future generations, like Jesus when Judea was tottering to its fall. In the intellectual development of man's higher life he holds a place not unlike that of Jesus in the emotional development.
Socrates, as Xenophon describes him, goes no farther as a teacher than to impress the principles of conduct as they were generally accepted by good men of the time, with peculiar persuasiveness. But Plato shows him as an original investigator of the human mind and the universe. In this there is an undoubted trait of true portraiture, but its limit is very difficult to trace, because in Plato's dialogues the master is made the mouthpiece of all the pupil's philosophy. The most distinctive feature which can be identified as that of Socrates himself is the cross-examination. Under this process, high-sounding generalities,—put in the mouths of speakers in the dialogues, the whole word-play set forth with exquisite grace and charm,—are shown by a rigid sifting to resolve themselves into nebulous and baseless figments,—the mere simulacra of true knowledge.
The conversations glide from this destructive analysis into a constructive philosophy, and then we soon feel that it is Plato rather than Socrates whom we are getting. The great contribution of Socrates himself to philosophy is the attitude he impressed—of inquiry which is serious because seeking the foundations of virtue and happiness, and is inexorable in its insistence on nothing less than solid reality. Against all allurements of indolence, comfort, and social convention he presses the question, What is true? His characteristic word is:
"Some things, Meno, I have said of which I am not altogether confident. But that we shall be better and braver and less helpless if we think that we ought to inquire than we should have been if we indulged in the idle fancy that there was no knowing and no use in searching after what we know not; that is a theme upon which I am ready to fight, in word and deed, to the utmost of my power."
Plato took from Socrates not method but inspiration, and soared into speculation. He wrote over the door of the Academy, "Let no one enter here who does not know geometry." That is, you are first to acquire absolute confidence, by familiarity with the demonstrations of mathematics, that real and certain knowledge is accessible to the human mind. Thus planting his foot on firmest certainty, Plato leaps off into a glorious sea of clouds. Flashes of insight and sublime allegory mix with fantastic theory and word-play.
The vast range of his thought we will touch only at two points. In the Symposium and the Phaedrus he discusses in his most brilliant vein the problem of love. To the reader who has inherited the ethical ideal of Christianity, Plato's love will seem like the image in Nebuchadnezzar's vision,—the head of gold, the feet of miry clay. He has a toleration for some aspects of sensuality of which Paul said, "it is a shame even to speak;" and this tolerance, in the greatest of the classic philosophers, is the most pregnant suggestion of the cleansing work which it was left for Christianity to undertake. Yet Plato teaches most impressively the subordination of sense to spirit in love, and the struggle of the two in man has seldom been set forth more powerfully than in his figure of the two yoked horses: the white, celestial steed struggling upward; the black, unruly one plunging down, while Reason, the charioteer, strives to guide. In the description of Love which Socrates professes to quote from the wise woman of Mantineia, there is the very height of the Platonic philosophy,—the gradual sublimation of human passion to the recognition of all noble forms and ideas, and at last to the vision of the Divine Beauty which is one with Wisdom and with Love.
"The true order of going or being led by another to the things of love is to use the beauties of earth as steps along which he mounts upwards for the sake of that other beauty, going from one to two, and from two to all fair forms, and from fair forms to fair actions, and from fair actions to fair notions, until from fair notions he arrives at the notion of absolute beauty, and at last knows what the essence of beauty is.
"What if man had eyes to see the true beauty—the divine beauty, I mean, pure and clear and unalloyed, not clogged with the pollution of mortality, and all the colors and vanities of human life—thither looking and holding converse with the true beauty divine and simple, and bringing into being and educating true creations of virtue, and not idols only? Do you not see that in that communion only, beholding beauty with the eye of the mind, he will be enabled to bring forth, not images of beauty, but realities; for he has hold not of an image but of a reality,—and will be enabled, bringing forth and educating true virtue, to become the friend of God and be immortal, if mortal man may." 
It is largely to Plato that we owe the idea of immortality as it exists in the mind of the civilized world to-day. The belief in a continued existence beyond death is much older; it is seen in the Iliad, where the appearance of the dead Patroclus to Achilles in a dream is accepted as the assurance of a shadowy and forlorn hereafter; and in the Odyssey the visit of the hero to the land of shades is portrayed with a free and gloomy imagination. It was a belief which among the earlier Greeks had little power either to console or to guide. In the age of Socrates, it seems to have signified little in the minds of the orthodox and pious. The great tragedians, who sublimate the popular mythology, for the most part regard the after-life as only a sad inevitable sequel; and to be snatched back from it for even a brief reprieve, like Alkestis, is miraculous good fortune. The greatest of the tragedians in his highest reach, Sophocles in Oedipus at Colonus, invests the departure of the hero, who has been purified by suffering, with a mystic radiance, a "light that never was on sea or land," the promise as it were of some future too sublime for mortal words. But the philosophy of Socrates was directed rather to the clear penetration of the method and secret of earthly life, than to any vision of the hereafter. It is noticeable that Xenophon, the loyal disciple and biographer of Socrates, himself of the best type of orthodox piety, and zealous to vindicate his master from the charge of irreligion,—Xenophon, in all the story of the master's life and death, gives not a hint of any future hope. But Plato developed the idea that in man there resides an essential, indestructible principle, superior to the physical frame which is its home and may be either its servant or master—a principle which manifests itself in thought, aspiration, virtue; which has existed before the body and will exist after it; which chooses for itself an upward or downward path; and which rightly tends to a celestial and immortal destiny. The thought never won universal acceptance even among philosophers; it had only an indirect and slight effect on the Stoicism which was the best religious product of ancient philosophy. But it wrought by degrees all effect on the thinking of mankind. While the lofty faith of the Egyptian passed away leaving no visible fruit, the idea of Plato slowly suffused with its light and warmth the current of human aspirations. Meantime, the later Jewish belief in a hereafter—in its form a much cruder conception of a physical revival from the grave—flamed up in a passionate ardor, as the sequence of the life and teaching of Jesus. The Platonic and the Christian belief sprang from a like source. Each was born from the death of a man so great and so beloved as to give the impression of some imperishable quality.
Socrates, with his noble character and aim, was put to death as a criminal. Was that the end of it all? Impossible—monstrous—never, if this world be indeed a cosmos. The one firm certainty which Socrates seems to have held, "No evil can happen to a good man in life or death,"—flashes in Plato's mind into a glorious hope of immortality, embodied in his loftiest passage, the picture of the dying Socrates.
The soul when withdrawn from all outward objects and rapt in contemplation is nearest to the divine,—this is the central thought of the Phaedo. It is pursued with much subtle argumentation, of which the essential residuum is this: the soul's action is purest and most intense when farthest withdrawn from the visible and tangible world,—and hence we guess that her true and eternal home is in that invisible realm of which all this material universe is but the veil and symbol.
But more impressive than the argument, more moving to the human heart, is the picture which is given of Socrates himself as the hour of death comes on,—the exaltation of all his familiar traits, the playfulness so exquisitely blent with seriousness, the searching thought, the frank human desire to be convinced by his own argument,—the charm of his friendly ways, the hand playing with Phaedo's hair, the taking of the cup "in the easiest and gentlest manner, without the least fear or change of color, looking at the man with all his eyes as his manner was,"—the last word, of calm reminder of a trivial obligation,—the whole scene of majestic and tender peace, like a sunset. It is a scene which reconciles us to life, and makes us no longer impatient even of our uncertainties. It speaks with a voice like that of Landor's verse:—
"Death stands above me, whispering low, I know not what into my ear, Of his strange language all I know Is,—there is not a word of fear."
To the modern reader there is a singular contradiction between the doctrine of Lucretius and his temper. The denial of any divine supervision of human life, or any hereafter for man; the dominion over all existence of purely material law,—this seems to us to destroy man's dearest faith and hope. This is the teaching of Lucretius, yet on this road he marches with a step so firm and buoyant, an eye so awake to all beauty and grandeur, a spirit so elate, that as we read we catch the energy and elation. The reading of the riddle is this: the religion against which Lucretius made his attack was not the soaring idealism of Plato, nor the inspiring and consolatory faith of Christianity, but an outworn mythology in which this world was ruled by capricious and unworthy despots, and the next world was gloomy with terrors and almost unlighted by hopes. Such had become the popular mythology in its later day, and as contrasted with this the view and temper of Lucretius are rational and manly. His message went far beyond a negation; he announced one of the greatest discoveries of the human spirit—the uniformity of nature. Well might the genius of poetry and the vigor of manhood unite to make the message impressive and splendid. Not caprice, but order,—not conflict, but harmony,—not deified partialities and spites and lusts, but exalted and unchanging law, rules the universe!
When Lucretius essayed to define in what this law consists, he fell hopelessly short of the mark. In his revulsion from the chaos and pettiness of man-like divinities, he fixed on material forces,—clearly to be seen and permanent in their operation,—as the only and sufficient cause and order. Those forces, by a brilliant guess, he resolved into an interplay of atoms. From this basis he projected a physical theory, which we know now was quite inadequate even for material phenomena, while the application of it to human thought and will was hopelessly insufficient. Viewed from this standpoint, the spectacle of human life takes on a sadness which the poet's genius cannot dispel, and sometimes intensifies. To man's inner world Lucretius has no serviceable key. But he is to be judged not by what he missed but by what he gained. He above all others stands as the discoverer of one of the few cardinal truths by which to-day we interpret the universe,—the constancy of nature.
The genius of Lucretius did for the realm of thought what Roman statesmanship did for the nations,—it brought peace and order among warring elements, by the imposition of a rule which was often narrow and harsh, but which was firm, stable, and the foundation for fairer and freer growths.
Already in Lucretius, and now again in Epictetus, we have passed from the Greek into the Roman world. It is a change partly of race, partly of time, and it is in close analogy with the successive phases of the human spirit. The mythology which satisfied the youth of the world had grown unlovely and unreal. Plato's splendid imaginings had yielded neither a secure basis to the thinker nor a moral guidance to the common man. Lucretius's interpretation of all events as the product of material law had small power to sustain or cheer when the intellectual glow of the bold innovator had subsided. Thoughtful men sought as their one supreme necessity an adequate and worthy rule of life. So there was wrought out, or grew, the Stoic philosophy. Based on an intellectual theory, its working strength lay in its consonance with the best habits and aptitudes engendered in the world's actual experience. The Greek type was beauty, pleasure, thought, freedom; the Roman type was law, obedience, self-mastery. The legion was the school of discipline and fidelity. The forum was the theatre where classes and parties, through rude jostling, worked out an efficient political order. A Greek thinker gave the mould, and Roman virtue gave the metal, of the Stoic type.
We may best study that type in Epictetus,—once a slave, afterward a teacher; so careless of fame that he left no written work, and we have only the priceless notes taken down by a faithful scholar, making a book whose stamp of heroic manhood twenty centuries have not dimmed.
"Man is master of his fate." The true aim of life is goodness, and goodness is within the command of the will. The lawgiver is Nature, and Nature bids us to be just, strong, pure, and to seek the good of our fellows. Such was the essence of Stoicism. As to deity, providence, or a hereafter,—belief and hope varied, according to the individual; but to the true Stoic the all-important matter was, Act well your part, here and now.
In Epictetus is always the note of reality and of victory. While actually a slave, he has learned the secret of inward freedom. His essential doctrine is that good and evil reside wholly in the will, and the will is free. As we choose, so we are. And by the right choice we find ourselves in harmony with the universe.
Though Epictetus continually appeals to reason, his basal word is to the will. Be constant to duty—accept the order of things as good, and be true to the highest law—revere "nature," the established order; obey "nature," the ideal law. Take all for the best, and you make all for the best.
Most practical and inspiring are his counsels. The war must be waged in the inmost thoughts. The images that rise to seduce, the images that rise to dismay, are to be fought down and driven away. "Be not hurried away by the rapidity of the appearance, but say, Appearances, wait for me a little; let me see who you are and what you are about; let me put you to the test. And then do not allow the appearance to lead you on and draw lively pictures of the things which will follow, for if you do, it will carry you off wherever it pleases. But rather bring to oppose it some other beautiful and noble appearance, and cast out this base appearance. And if you are accustomed to be exercised in this way, you will see what shoulders, what sinews, what strength you have." 
"Be willing at length to be approved by yourself, be willing to appear beautiful to God, desire to be in purity with your own pure self and with God. Then, when any such appearance visits you, Plato says, Have recourse to expiations, go a suppliant to the temples of the averting Deities. It is even sufficient if you resort to the society of noble and just men, and compare yourself with them, whether you find one who is living or dead."
"This is the true athlete, the man who exercises himself against such appearances. Stay, wretch, do not be carried away. Great is the combat, divine is the work; it is for kingship, for freedom, for happiness, for freedom from perturbation. Remember God, call on him as a helper and protector, as men at sea call on the Dioscuri in a storm. For what is a greater storm than that which comes from appearances which are violent and drive away the reason?"
Epictetus, compared with Plato, is the warrior philosopher beside the seeing philosopher. He is in closest grip with the foe, and his calm is the calm of the victor holding down his enemy.
His apparent unconcern as to the hereafter is in keeping with his whole attitude, which is that of cheerful acquiescence in the divine order, whatever it be. "To be free, not hindered, not compelled, conforming yourself to the administration of Zeus, obeying it, well satisfied with this, blaming no one, charging no one with fault, able from your whole soul to utter these verses:—
"Lead me, O Zeus, and thou, too, Destiny."
He vindicates Providence against injustice. "The unjust man has the advantage,—in what? In money. But the just man has the advantage in that he is faithful and modest."
"We ought to have these two principles in readiness, that except the will nothing is good nor bad; and that we ought not to lead events, but to follow them. My brother ought not to have behaved thus to me. No, but he will see to that; and, however he may behave, I will conduct myself toward him as I ought."
"As a mark is not set up for the purpose of missing the aim, so neither does the nature of evil exist in the world."
That is, it is inconceivable that the universe is a blunder. This is one of the fundamental ideas of Epictetus. The inference is, that man has only to define his true end and pursue it, which is the right action of the will, or as we should say, right character. Pursuing this, he never finds himself thwarted or unfriended, never rebels or mistrusts the gods.
The substance of his message is: "On the occasion of every accident (event) that befalls you, remember to turn to yourself and inquire what power you have for turning it to use."
"God has delivered yourself to your own care, and says, 'I had no fitter one to intrust him to than yourself; keep him for me such as he is by nature, modest, faithful, erect, unterrified, free from passion and perturbation.'"
God, says Epictetus, has made me his witness to men. "For this purpose he leads me at one time hither, at another time sends me thither; shows me to men as poor, without authority and sick; sends me to Gyara, leads me into prison, not because he hates me,—far from him be such a meaning, for who hates the best of his servants? nor yet because he cares not for me, for he does not neglect any, even of the smallest things; but he does this for the purpose of exercising me and making use of me as a witness to others. Being appointed to such a service, do I still care about the place in which I am, or with whom I am, or what men say about me? and do I not entirely direct my thoughts to God, and to his instructions and commands?"
Thus he falls back on the life of the spirit,—simple, sure, victorious. To place all good in character is the secret. From virtue grows piety. It is desire set on externals, and so disappointed, that brings discontent, repining, impiety.
Yet Epictetus has distinct and serious limitations. He assumes that to avoid all perturbation is the aim of the wise man. This can be accomplished only by the sacrifice of all objects of desire which lie outside of the control of the will, and he advises this sacrifice. "If you love an earthen vessel, say it is an earthen vessel which you love; for when it has been broken you will not be disturbed. If you are kissing your child or wife, say that it is a human being whom you are kissing, for when the wife or child dies you will not be disturbed."
All joys but the purely moral are to be despised. In going to the theatre one should be indifferent to who gains the prize. This attempted indifference to all the great and little pleasures of life which have no distinct moral character, if successful, makes an ascetic, and of most men is liable to make prigs. It is the vice of Puritanism.
The modern world is riper and richer than the Roman world. We say now, the ideal man is not "unperturbed." Perturbations are inevitable to the man normally and highly developed, with sensibilities and sympathies keenly alive. The true aim is to include composure, but not as sole and supreme. This is a more complex development than the Stoic, less capable perhaps of symmetrical completeness, but grander, as a Gothic church is grander than a Greek temple.
Again, the assumption of Epictetus and of all the Stoics that the will is wholly free, that man has only to choose and seek goodness and he can perfectly achieve it, misses the familiar and bitter experience of humanity, that too often man carries his prison and fetters within himself. A Roman poet voiced it: Meliora video proboque, deteriora sequor. Paul spoke it: "The good that I would, I do not; and the evil I would not, that I do."
But Epictetus himself is one of the great souls who are not to be described by the label of any creed. He has in himself the secret of spiritual victory, and he has a peculiar power to impart it. The limitations of Stoicism as a creed are more plainly seen in Marcus Aurelius. His character, revealed in the "fierce light that beats upon a throne," is of rare nobility and beauty. To a man's strength he unites a woman's tenderness. Just because of that tenderness, and the deep heart of which it is the flower, the philosophy he so bravely practices gives him but a bleak and chill abiding-place. Through his Meditations—manly, wise, and gracious—there runs a deep note of sadness. For this man's nature cried out for love, and not even faithfulest duty can take the place of love.
Stoicism was the most distinct embodiment of the virtues of the classic world. Those virtues shone in many who did not profess themselves to be of the Stoic school. Plutarch's gallery of portraits is a part of the world's best possession. His heroes belong not to their own time alone. They may be distinguished in some broad respects from the saints and sages of other lands and times; some advance of type may be traced in the highest products of the successive ages; but while one turns the pages of Plutarch, he scarcely asks for better company.
Why, then, did Stoic philosophy fail of more wide or lasting success among mankind? Because—we may perhaps answer—its chief weapon was the reasoning intellect, in which only a few could be proficient. Because, fixing its ideal in imperturbability, it denied sensibilities of affection, joy, and hope, which are a large part of normal humanity. Because, in its lack of natural science, and its revulsion from the mythologic deities, it isolated man in the universe, claiming for the individual will a sovereignty which ignored the ensphering play of natural forces, and denying to the heart any outreach beyond the earthly and finite. If we may venture to summarize the defects of ancient philosophy in two words—it lacked womanliness and it lacked knowledge.
We are now to study the building up of another side of the ideal man. Philosophy had essayed a religion of the intellect and the will; now from Judaism sprang Christianity, a religion of the imagination and the heart.
The highest outcome of the classic civilization was the clear conception and strenuous practice of right for its own sake. The outcome of Judaism in Christianity was essentially the belief and feeling of an intimate union between man and a higher power, with love and obedience on the one side, love and providence on the other.
In the vast tract of Greek-Roman history, we have looked at only a few of the highest mountain peaks—the noblest contributions. But since the Christian church still treats the Old Testament as one of its charter documents, we need to enlarge a little upon the general outline and color of Jewish history, and we must recognize the shadows as well as the lights.
The traditional interpretation of the Old Testament which is still current is based on successive misconceptions, overlaying and blending with each other like close-piled geologic strata. Pious intent of the original writers, shaping their facts to suit their theories—later assumptions of inspiration and infallibility in the records—theologic systems quarried and built out of these materials—the supposed dependence of the most precious faiths of mankind upon these misreadings of history,—all these influences, with the lapse of time, have buried so deeply the original facts, that the exhuming and revivifying of the true story, or at least a tolerable similitude of its main lines, has imposed a gigantic task upon modern scholarship. Of the results of this scholarship, we may give here only a kind of shorthand memorandum.
The Old Testament as a whole, with precious exceptions, can only by a great stretch of imagination be claimed as an integral part of "the book of religion"—the title which Matthew Arnold asserts for the entire Bible. The phrase can scarcely be applied to the Old Testament, unless it be read through a medium surcharged with association and prepossession. Much of its morality has been outgrown; many of its early stories are revolting to us: much, of which the inner meaning is at one with our deepest life, is disguised under phraseology wholly alien to our modern thought and speech. As a manual of devotion, or as a textbook for the young, the Old Testament can never again fill such a place as it filled to our fathers. But we can still trace in it many of the upward steps of the race, and there are portions which still hold a deep place in the affections of the truly religious.
The mind at certain stages personifies the Deity with the greatest ease and naturalness. The primitive man interprets the whole world about him by the analogy of his own activity. He sees in all the phenomena of nature the presence of personal beings,—beings who act and suffer and enjoy and love and hate as he does himself. The sky, the sun, the wind, the ocean, represent each a separate deity. Next, each clan, or city, or nation, comes to regard itself as under the patronage of one of these deities. The national god of the Israelites, at the earliest time we know them, bore the name of Yahveh,—a name more familiar to us under the form Jehovah. Originally he was probably the god of the sun and fire. His acts were seen everywhere, his motives guessed. The heat and light of the sun—now illumining, now fructifying, now blasting—were his immediate manifestations.
Later, he was conceived to favor certain kinds of human action. He was at first appeased under the influences of analogies from the lower side of human nature,—Give him a present, something to eat, or to smell, or to see. Then came the idea that he was the friend and favorer of the righteous,—of the merciful and just. The turning-point in the history of Judaism—the birth-hour of religion as it has come down to us—is marked by that great dimly-seen personality, Moses, who taught that the worship of Yahveh forbade murder, adultery, theft, false witness, covetousness.
The Jews had neither science nor logic; they had no intelligent induction as to nature,—hence they never got beyond the idea of supernatural intervention. Apparently they never challenged and sifted their fundamental ideas,—never raised the question as to the actual existence of Yahveh. They saw and felt the incongruities of the world as a moral administration, and sometimes pressed the inquiry, as in Job, Why does Yahveh thus? But the denial of any ruling personal Will, as by Lucretius, was impossible to them. They were imaginative, intense, and their imagination got the saving ethical impress especially from the prophets.
Judaism as a religion grew from "the Law and the Prophets." From almost the earliest historic time there existed some brief code of precepts,—probably an abbreviated form of what we know as the Ten Commandments. Later came the impassioned preaching of the prophets. Still later, there was formulated that elaborate statute-book for which by a pious fiction was claimed the authority of Moses.
The prophets spoke out of an exaltation of which no other account was given than it was the inspiration of Yahveh,—"Thus saith the Lord!" They did not argue, they asserted—with a passion that bred conviction, or at least fear and respect.
It is here that the distinction between the Greek and the Hebrew method is most marked. Socrates, for example, called himself the midwife of men's thoughts. His maxim was, "Know thyself." His cross-examination was designed to make men see for themselves. That is, he taught by reason. But the prophet's claim was, "Thus saith the Lord!" He spoke out of his personal and passionate conviction, for which he believed he had the highest supernatural sanction.
The heart of the typical prophetic message was that the Ruler of the world is a righteous ruler, and that the service he desires is righteousness. The early prophets—such as Micah, Hosea, Amos—speak with scorn of the worship by sacrifices,—whether the fruits of the earth, or slaughtered beasts, or the ghastly offering of human life. Hosea cries: "I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings." So Micah speaks: "Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with yearling calves? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"
Further, the prophets assumed to know and declare Yahveh's will on public affairs, especially on the government of the nation. They tried to dictate the attitude of Judea toward other kingdoms—an attitude generally of proud defiance. Often their counsel ignored the actualities, and helped to precipitate Judah and Israel into hopeless conflicts with their mighty neighbors. When in these conflicts they were worsted, the prophets laid the disaster to the idolatry or other wickedness of the people. Finally came utter defeat and dispersal, and an exile for generations in a foreign land. Then the prophets rose to an intenser faith,—purer, tenderer, more spiritual. Some time and somehow the Lord would surely be gracious to his people!
But when the captives, or a part of them, were restored to their own land,—with lowered fortunes and humbled pride, half dependent still on a foreign master,—the prophetic enthusiasm no longer availed to give a fresh message from the Lord. Instead, the leaders and founders of the restoration—Ezra, Nehemiah, and their associates and followers—built up a well-organized, well-enforced system of discipline. They reshaped the old traditions, enlarged and codified them; they shaped the Pentateuch and book of Joshua, as we know them now; they purified and beautified the Temple service; they instituted synagogues in every town, where religious teaching should be regular and constant; they developed a class of "Scribes," or expositors of the Law; they multiplied ceremonial observances; they rewrote the national history, and invested their laws with the sacredness of divine oracles, under the august name of Moses; they imposed deadly penalties and bitter hatred on all who deviated from the established religion. All this was the work of centuries, and its important result was that by a manifold and perpetual drill certain religious ideas were stamped upon the minds of the people, until beliefs and usages and sentiments ran in their very blood and were transmitted from father to son.
As types of the Hebrew religion in its advancing stages we may note: first, Jacob, winning his way by craft and subtlety, gaining the favor of his god by a fidelity which expresses itself by vows and sacrifices and scarcely at all by morality; and hardly attractive except in the tenderness of his family relations. A mythical figure, he is a marvelous embodiment of the persistent race-traits of the Jew—tenacity, craft, devoutness—in the early phase. It is a very earthly phase, but with the germs of a marvelous development. Later, we have David, the warrior king. Still later comes Elijah, the prophet of a Deity who now stands for chastity and justice against gods of sensuality and cruelty, and defying wicked kings in the name of that God. Then in the line of prophets we may pass to their greatest, Isaiah,—both first and second of the name,—each of whom in the deepest adversity of the people is inspired by a hope, vague in its expectation, but so deep, so fervid, so sweet, that to this day it lends its language to hearts which in darkness look for the morning. Next we may take Ezra, rebuilding the shattered nationality, not on a political basis, but by a law of personal conduct in which a genuine morality is mixed with a ceremonial code. And here really belongs the legislation ascribed to Moses and given in the Pentateuch; the law-giver having an original in some great, dim, historic figure, long treasured in the popular imagination, but rehabilitated by priestly art as the author of a great volume of minute legislation, to which dignity is lent by the legends of a personality sublime yet meek. We have then the flowering of the inner life, in the book of Psalms,—the single name of the Psalmist covering the products of many minds and successive generations. In the course of affairs, the hero's place belongs next to Judas Maccabaeus, the patriot leader against the heathen Greek; and we may take the books of the Maccabees and the book of Daniel as giving the ideal thought of the period,—the matrix of belief and hope from which was to spring the crowning flower of Judaism.
It will suffice for our purpose if from this series we touch upon David, the Psalms, the book of Job, Isaiah, and the literature of the Maccabean time.
The real place of David is that of the warrior-king who gave independence, unity, and victory to the people of Israel. It was he who broke the yoke of the Philistines which Saul had weakened, and slew in fight their gigantic champion. He conquered and subjected the neighboring tribes; he put down the rebellions headed by his own sons; he made and kept Israel for a brief term a proud and victorious military monarchy. Within a single generation after his death it was divided into two hostile fragments, and both of these gradually fell under foreign conquerors. Very short was the period of Israel's warlike glory, and for a thousand years afterward the national heart turned in love and reverence to the hero of that time. As the Saxons remembered Alfred, as Americans remember Washington, so the Israelites remembered David. It was in his image and under his name that they pictured a future which should outshine their past. Israel throughout the period when she is most distinctly before us was a subject people. It was largely the presence of a foreign oppressor which gave to the national voice that tone of intense entreaty toward a divine friend and deliverer which runs its pathos through psalm and history and prophecy. There had been a better day for Israel, before Assyrian and Egyptian trampled her. There had been a day when Philistia and Edom quailed and fell before her, and the Lord wrought victory by the hand of David. So it is David's history that stands out fullest and clearest in the whole record, from Abraham onward. How much is true history and how much is imaginative addition must be largely guesswork. But we see in David the ideal hero and type of that period of Jewish history as we see in Achilles and Odysseus the ideal types of primitive Greece.
And the story of David is as deeply colored with the primal passions of humanity as are the songs of Homer. There is the picture of the shepherd-boy, to which must be added the exquisite psalm which later traditions put in his mouth; the victory over the giant; the most pathetic story of the moody and wayward Saul—the power of music over his melancholy, the alternations of jealous rage and compunction; the friendship with Jonathan, more tender and pure than the friendships Plato pictures; the dramatic fortunes of the outlaw; the family tragedies full of crime and horror; the dark story of Amnon, Tamar, and Absalom; the passion of fatherhood in fullest intensity, with the agonized prayers for the sick child and the heartbroken lament over Absalom; the group of valiant captains and their chivalrous exploits; the risk of life to bring to their homesick chief a drink from the well of Bethlehem; the story of Bathsheba and Uriah—lust, treachery, and murder; the prophet's rebuke; the years declining under heavy shadows. How full of lifeblood it all is! Every chapter is an idyl, an epic, or a tragedy.
It is largely this picturesque dramatic quality which made the English Bible in its early days the favorite book of the English people, and has kept for it always so high a place. But the attempt to reduce a story like David's to terms of spiritual edification has been difficult above measure, ever since mankind advanced beyond the half-barbaric age in which the story was told. Judged by our standards, the ethics of the story are often low, and its religion is largely a superstition. What brings the Almighty on the scene is most frequently some great calamity, which priest or soothsayer interprets as a divine judgment. Often there is attributed to him the quality of a jealous Oriental despot. The justice he enforces is often injustice and savagery. Take the story of the Gibeonites. A three years' famine in Israel was explained by Yahveh's oracle as a retribution for the breach of faith by Saul, many years before, with the Gibeonites, whom he had persecuted in defiance of ancient compact. David thereupon invited the Gibeonites to name the requital which would appease them, and they asked for the death of seven sons of Saul. So David delivered the seven innocent men into their hands, "and they hanged them before the Lord."
The Zeus of Homer is offensive to religious feeling because he fully shares the sensuality which we account one of the great defects of humanity. From that blemish the Hebrew idea of God is always free. The hostility between Yahveh and the heathen gods has its deep ethical significance in the struggle of chastity against licentiousness, to which the religious sanction brings reinforcement. But the Hebrew God has a savage and vindictive quality, which only slowly and partially disappears. Originally, it is probable, the God of the sun and fire, beneficent to illumine, malevolent to burn, he remains always in some degree a God of wrath.
It was by one of the strange growths of the advancing popular thought that David, the valiant, passionate soldier-king, came to be conceived of as the writer of the book of Psalms. Historically a misconception, it yet lent a continuity and ideal unity to the nation's self-interpretation.
The book of Psalms, says Dean Stanley, is the selected hymns of the Jewish people, for a period as long as from Chaucer to Tennyson. The service-book of the Second Temple is Kuenen's description. Beyond any other single book, it shows us the heart of Judaism in its ripest, most characteristic development. Its language has become saturated with the associations of many centuries. In these intense, direct, and fervid utterances we can see the form and lineaments of a faith which was the ancestor of our own, yet is not the same.
The religion of the Psalms has different phases. We have here the experiences of many souls, with a certain kinship, yet with wide differences. In many of these hymns one recognizes the religion in which Jesus was cradled. Imagination and feeling have full scope. The constant idea is of Yahveh, ruler of the world and its inhabitants, the judge of the wicked and friend of the good. "Mark the perfect man and behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace." "How excellent is thy loving-kindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings." "Thy righteousness is like the great mountains; thy judgments as a great deep." "The Lord redeemeth the soul of his servants, and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate." "Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man that trusteth in him."
The depth and passion of the struggle against sin is shown in the fifty-first Psalm. "Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving-kindness; according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies, blot out my transgressions." "Against thee, thee only, have I sinned." "Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." "Make me to hear joy and gladness." "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." "Thou desirest not sacrifice, else would I give it. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise."
This passion against sin—this cry for inward purity—is the root of the religion of Jesus, the blessedness of the pure in heart; the warfare of Paul, the spirit against the flesh.
In other psalms, again, is a poignant cry for help and deliverance. It is the expostulation of the soul with Fate, the cry to a Power who should be a friend, but hides his face. There, is a pathetic sense of man's frailty and mortality. "Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear unto my cry; hold not thy peace at my tears, for I am a stranger with thee and a sojourner, as all my fathers were. O spare me, that I may recover strength, before I go hence, and be no more."
Praise for God's greatness and awe for his eternity are joined with the sad sense of man's mortality. "Wilt thou show wonders to the dead? Shall the dead arise and praise thee? Shall thy lovingkindness be declared in the grave? or thy faithfulness in destruction? Shall thy wonders be known in the dark? and thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?"
Very often again the burden is the cry of the weak against the oppressor. Man, wronged by his fellow, cries to God, and can imagine no deliverance save by the ruin of his enemies. The cursing is tremendous. "O daughter of Babylon, happy shall he be that taketh thy little ones and dasheth them against the stones!" At this point is the widest ethical difference between "them of old time" and our own religion. In them, abhorrence of sin was not yet distinguished from hatred of the sinner, and the foes of the Psalmist or his nation were always identified with the foes of God. To hate thine enemy seemed as righteous as to love thy friend.
In a sense we may say the Psalms are a cry to which Jesus is the answer: "Lord, save me, and destroy my enemies!" "Love your enemies, and in loving you are saved."
In the book of Psalms there blends and alternates with the old theory of reward and punishment a later idea,—that goodness carries its own blessing with it,—that better than oil and wine, flocks and herds, health and friends, is the peace of well-doing, the joy of gratitude, yes, even the passionate contrition in which the soul revolts from its own sin and finds again the sweetness of the upward effort and a response to that effort like heaven's own smile. Not, goodness brings blessings, but goodness is blessed; not, the wicked shall perish, but wickedness is perdition; this is the deep undertone of the best of the Psalms.
Among these hymns are some which are filled with a noble delight in the works of nature,—a fresh, glad pleasure in the whole spectacle of creation, from sun and stars, sea and mountains, to the goats among the hills, and the conies of the rock. There is frank satisfaction in the bread which strengtheneth man's heart and the wine that makes him glad. And all this free human joy in the activities and splendors of nature never so much as approaches the perilous slope towards sensuality. It is everywhere sublimated by the all-pervading recognition of a holy and beneficent God.
What may be said of the Psalms generally is this: they express the most vivid and various play of human emotions,—sorrow, wrath, repentance, joy, dread, hope,—always exercised as in the presence of an Almighty being, holy, righteous, and the friend of righteous men. In this is their abiding power,—this close reflection of the fluctuations in every sensitive heart under the play of life's experiences,—encompassed with an atmosphere of noble seriousness, and outreaching toward a higher Power.
In the story of the Jewish mind, the book of Job stands by itself. It is not so much a stage in the progressive development of a faith, as a powerful and unanswered challenge to the current assertions of that faith. The characteristic idea of Judaism was that God rules the world in the interest of the good man. Not so, says Job, the facts are against it. Hear the complaint of a good man to whom life has brought trouble and sorrow, without remedy and without hope! So stood first the bold arraignment, the earliest voice of truly religious skepticism. Job is skeptical, not from any want of goodness,—he has been strenuously good; even now in all his darkness, "my righteousness I hold fast and will not let it go: my heart shall not reproach me so long as I live." His goodness is of no narrow sort; justice, protection of the oppressed, help to the suffering, these have been his delight; from wantonness of sense he has kept himself pure; not even against wrong-doers and enemies has his hate gone out; he has not "rejoiced at the destruction of them that hated me, or lifted up myself when evil found him; neither have I suffered my mouth to sin by wishing a curse to his soul." Yet, after a life of this sort, he finds himself bereft, impoverished, tormented. Where is the righteousness of God? He turns to his friends for sympathy. "Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O ye my friends; for the hand of God hath touched me." His friends for reply justify God by blaming Job. Doubtless you deserve it all: you must have done all manner of wrong, and been a hypocrite to boot! That is all the comfort they give him. Dreary and desolate he stands, no good in the present, no hope in the future. "I cry unto thee, and thou dost not hear me: I stand up, and thou regardest me not. Thou art become cruel to me; with thy strong hand thou opposest thyself against me. I know that thou wilt bring me to death, and to the house appointed for all living."
Upon that gloom the curtain falls. "The words of Job are ended."
The later chapters of the book seem added by successive hands. They introduce a fresh speaker, to help out the argument for God. They make the Almighty speak in his own behalf. His answer is simply an appeal to the wonders of physical nature. Look, vain man, at my works; consider the war-horse, the behemoth, the leviathan; how can your petty mind judge the creator of these? This strikes a note which is still heard in the music of to-day, the awe and reverence before the grandeur of nature which can sometimes soothe the restlessness of man and hush his anxieties, as the harp of David brought peace to the moody Saul. Yet such thoughts do not suffice for the man whose personal suffering is keen. They silence rather than answer the question which presses upon Job.
The story must be otherwise helped out, so some kindly champion of orthodoxy put in a fairy-story climax,—Job got well of his boils, had more sheep and oxen than ever, had other children born to him. And so the difficulty is happily solved!
But the earlier and deeper words remain, with their unanswerable challenge to the comfortable creed that God will always make the good man happy. The book stands, the expression of a typical, a mournful but sublime attitude of the human mind. It is a facing of truth when truth looks darkest, rather than to take refuge in comfortable make-believe. And it shows man falling back on his innermost stronghold of all. If God himself fail me,—if the power of the universe be cruel or indifferent,—yet "my righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go; my heart shall not reproach me so long as I live."
The habitual weapon of the Prophets is denunciation. They pour out on their opponents a wrath which is the hotter because it involves a moral condemnation, and the heavier because it claims the sanction of Deity. Among their exemplars are Samuel deposing Saul, and scaring him from the tomb, and Elijah slaying the priests of Baal. Of the written prophecies the characteristic word is "Woe unto you!" They are the prototypes of Jesus assailing the Pharisees and driving out the money-changers; of the book of Revelation; of Tertullian proclaiming the torments of the damned; of the mediaeval ban on the heretic; of Puritan and Catholic hurling anathemas at each other; of Carlyle, of Garrison. But in the greatest of the prophets the threat is almost hidden by the promise, and instead of cursing there is benediction.
Whoever would get at the heart of the Old Testament, and understand the spell which the religion first of Judaism and then of Christianity has cast upon the world for thousands of years, should ponder the book of Isaiah. It blends the work of two authors, but their spirit is closely akin. In each case the prophet is full of a conviction so intense that he propounds it with perfect confidence as the word of God. By the boldest personification, he speaks continually in the name of God. This was the characteristic method of Hebrew prophecy. The prophetic books all stand as for the most part the direct word of God. This way of thought and speech was possible only to men in an early stage of intellectual development and under the highest pressure of conviction and emotion.
The traditional repute of these Jewish prophets and the record of their words were accepted by both Jews and Christians. Their writings were taken as the authoritative voice of God. The same credit came to be extended to all the ancient books of the Jewish religion,—psalms, histories, genealogies, ritual, and all. But it is mainly the prophecies to which this character originally belonged. The Psalms are, with few exceptions, purely human in their standpoint. In them, it is avowedly a man who mourns, rejoices, repents, prays, curses, or gives thanks. But in the prophecies God himself is presented as the speaker.
In both the earlier and later Isaiah, God appears as speaking to men in extreme need, in words of incomparable comfort, inspiration, and hope. To whatever special exigency of Israel they were first addressed, the language, stripped of all local references, comes home to the universal human heart in its deepest experiences. To the divine favor this teaching sets only one condition: "Cease to do evil, learn to do well." "Seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow." "If ye be willing and obedient." "Say ye to the righteous that it shall be well with them, for they shall eat the fruit of their doings. Woe unto the wicked; it shall be ill with him, for the reward of his hands shall be given him." On the one simple condition of turning from moral evil to good, the blessings of the inner life are promised in every tone of assurance, consolation, promise. "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned." "He shall feed his flock like a shepherd; he shall gather the lambs with his arm and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young." "Sing, O heavens, and be joyful, O earth, and break forth into singing, O mountains, for the Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted."
The most triumphant word in the New Testament, and its tenderest word, both are drawn from one verse in the elder Isaiah: "He will swallow up death in victory, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces."
The distinctive word and thought of Jesus toward God is first found in the later Isaiah,—"our Father." "Doubtless thou art our father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not; thou, O Lord, art our father, our redeemer; thy name is from everlasting." The word recurs, together with an image which by a later than Jesus was made the symbol of an arbitrary divine despotism, but which Isaiah first employed to blend the idea of omnipotent power with closest affection: "O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay and thou the potter; and we are all the work of thy hand." A similitude is used even gentler than a father's care: "As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you." "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee."
By the later Isaiah is shown the figure of an innocent sufferer, whose sorrows are to issue in the widest blessing. This sufferer has been interpreted sometimes as typifying the few heroic souls among the people of Israel, sometimes as a prophet in Isaiah's day, last and most fondly as Christ. Whomever the prophet had in mind, the idea goes home to the heart; somehow, undeserved sorrow borne blamelessly, bravely, even gladly, since for love's sake, is to have a celestial fruitage. "Despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;" "he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows,"—and at last "he shall see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied." Then the strain breaks into an exultant tenderness, weaving into one chord the deepest griefs and consolations of woman, the sublimities of nature, all the passion and all the peace of the heart. "Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child, for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the Lord. Fear not, for thou shalt not be ashamed. For thy Maker is thy husband, the Lord of hosts is his name, and thy redeemer the Holy One of Israel. For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gather thee. In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment, but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer. The mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee. O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted! I will lay thy stones with fair colors, and lay thy foundations with sapphires; and all thy children shall be taught of the Lord, and great shall be the peace of thy children."
To such words men and women in all times have clung, and always will cling. For, so first spoke a voice in some soul which in the heart of the storm had found peace. He called it the voice of God. What better name can we give it?
In the prophecies and the psalms we have seen the high-wrought poetry of Israel's religion. For the requirements of daily life there needs a more prosaic, definite, and minute guidance. This the Jew found in the body of usages and precepts which gradually grew up under the care of the priesthood. The prescriptive sanction of habit attached to these observances was at certain memorable epochs exchanged for a belief in the direct communication of the code from heaven. One such occasion was the finding of the "book of the Law" by the high priest, and its presentation and enforcement on king and people which is recorded in 2 Kings xxii. and xxiii. The strong indications are that this was the book known to us as Deuteronomy, and that instead of the rediscovery of a forgotten book there was in truth a new book set forth, claiming the authority of Moses, and enlarging and enriching the traditional observances according to the most "advanced" ideas of the time. A similar occasion, at a later period, is described at length in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. The new legislation there imposed in the name of Moses and the fathers—or rather of Yahveh himself, as he spoke to the men of old—was probably in substance the regulations contained in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers.
By our standards of judgment, these acts were pious forgeries. The mental conditions under which they were done, the psychologic state which prompted them, the ethical standards which sanctioned them, are matter for curious study. It would be crude to class them as the deliberate and inexcusable crimes which they would be in our day. The claim of a divine authority for human beliefs—the idea that what is morally beneficial may be asserted as historically true—has worked in many strange forms. We see it here in its early phase, among a people in whom, as in mankind at large, the virtue and obligation of truthfulness was a late and slow discovery. The same instinct—to claim for what we wish to believe a sanction of infallible revelation—works in subtle forms to-day.
As to the contents of the Law which thus gradually took form, a distinction may easily be traced even by the cursory reader. The earlier code, Deuteronomy, is full of a generous and lofty temper. It is one of the most impressive documents of the Jewish scriptures. Here is that which Jesus named as the first and great commandment: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might." The teaching of the book is primarily the worship of Yahveh,—a holy, loving, and judging God,—who rewards his people with blessings or punishes them with disasters. Promises and threats are equally distinct and vivid: never were blessing and cursing more emphatic. The morality enjoined is charitable and pure. With an equal insistence is enjoined a certain method and form of worship, including sacrifices at the temple, three yearly feasts, the observance of the Sabbath, the due maintenance of the priesthood, and the utter rejection of all other gods.
When we turn to the other books of the Law, we come into an atmosphere less exalted, and with a multiplicity of ceremonial details. There is endless regulation as to varieties of sacrifice, cleansing from technical uncleanness, and the like. Interwoven with these, as if on an equal footing, are special applications of morality—inculcations of chastity, justice, and good neighborhood. The principles of the Ten Words—themselves an inheritance from a very early day—are applied in many particulars. Occasionally is a lofty sentiment, a clear advance. Thus we find in Leviticus the "second commandment" of Jesus, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."
The general increase in rigidity of ceremonial in these books is to be read along with the stern decrees of Ezra as to separation from family and friendly relations with non-Jewish neighbors. It was, in a word, a Puritan reformation. There was just the same combination of heightened moral conviction with urgency upon matters of form and detail, and hostility to all outside of one special church, which belonged to the Puritan. But the Jewish reformer, unlike the English, enlarged instead of simplifying his ritual. It is this interblending of outward observance with moral and spiritual quality which stumbles the modern reader at every page. It was a confusion which needed the spiritual genius of Jesus to dissolve, and the leadership of Paul to definitely renounce.
By the side of the ceremonial element in the Law there ripened gradually an expansion of its moral precepts. The sacred books were expounded by the Scribes. The preacher in the synagogue came to touch the people's heart often more closely and delicately than the priest with his bloody sacrifices and his imposing liturgies. Spontaneity, inspiration, prophetic power, was no longer present, but in the guise of comment and interpretation there grew up a gentler, humaner morality. The moral value of labor and industry came into recognition. There were teachers like Hillel and Gamaliel in whom devout piety and homely practice went hand in hand. In the ethics of Judaism—under all these various forms of "the Law and the Prophets"—the distinctive note, compared with the ethics of Greece and Rome, was chastity. The ideal Greece represented wisdom and beauty; the ideal Rome was valor and self-control; the ideal Israel was the subjugation of sense to spirit, the approach of man to God by purity of life.
The twofold service of Judaism was to impress this special note of chastity on human virtue, and to give to virtue the wings of a great hope. The flowering of that hope was in Christianity; the preparation for it comes now before us.
Under the rule of Alexander's successors the Jewish system, with its mixture of ethics and ritual, came in collision with the ideas and practice of degenerate Greek culture,—pleasure-loving, nature-worshiping, sensual, with gymnastics and aesthetics, tolerant and tyrannical. The two systems were hostile alike in their virtues and vices. The Greek ruler put down with a strong hand the religious and patriotic scruples of his Jewish subject. The Jew bore persecution with the tough endurance of his race, then rose in revolt with the fierce courage and religious fervor of his race. He won his last victory in the field of arms. Brief was the independence, soon followed by inglorious servitude; but its sufferings and triumphs had fused the nation once more into invincible devotion to the Law of their God, and had rooted in their hearts a principle of hope which in varying forms and growing power was to change the aspect of human life.
It seems natural to man to ascribe some impressive origin, some dramatic birth, to the beliefs that are dearest to him. But if we trace back through Christian and Jewish lineage the idea of immortality, we are quite unable to discover the time or place of its beginning. The early Jew thought of death much as did the early Greek,—as the extinction of all that was precious in life, and the transition to a shadowy and forlorn existence in the realm of shades. The Hades of Homer seems much to resemble the Sheol of the Old Testament, though more vividly conceived. The strong, ruddy, passionate life of the Hebrew found as little to cheer it in the outlook beyond death as did the energetic, graceful, joyful life of the Greek. Ancient Egypt had, at least for the initiate, a noble teaching of retribution hereafter to crown the mortal career with fit consummation of joy or woe. Ancient Persia had in its own form a like doctrine. The Hebrews in their servile period caught not a scintilla of the Egyptian faith. In their exile it is probable that they did get some unrecorded influence from their Persian neighbors. Unmistakably, their emigrants to Alexandria, meeting there the nobler form of Greek culture while the Palestinian Jews encountered its baser side, caught some inspiration from the philosophy which followed, though afar off, the noble visions of Plato. Whether Persia or Greece was more directly the source of the new hope which crept almost unperceived into the stern bosom of Judaism is not certain. But the first clear voice of that hope comes from the time of the martyrs. In the second book of the Maccabees is told—probably by an Alexandrian Jew—the story of the men and women who faced a dreadful death rather than disobey the Law of their God. In that last extremity—that confrontal of the soul by the bitterest choice, and its acceptance of death rather than wrong-doing—comes the sudden voice of a hope triumphant over the tyrant. "Thou like a fury takest us out of this present life, but the King of the world shall raise us up, who have died for his laws, unto everlasting life." So in succession bear testimony the seven sons of one mother, herself the bravest of them all. "She exhorted every one of them in her own language, filled with courageous spirit; and stirring up her womanish thoughts with a manly courage, she said unto them: 'I cannot tell how ye came into my womb: for I neither gave you breath nor life, neither was it I that formed the members of every one of you. But doubtless the Creator of the world who formed the generations of man, and found out the beginning of all things, will also of his due mercy give you breath and life again, as ye now regard not your own selves for his laws' sake. Fear not this tormentor, but, being worthy of thy brethren, take thy death, that I may receive thee again in mercy with thy brethren.'"
Just as the death of Socrates inspired in Plato the out-reaching hope of a hereafter, so these Jewish martyrdoms quickened the doubtful guess, the dim conjecture, into fervid conviction. From this period dates the settled Jewish belief in immortality.
The form which that belief assumed is seen in the book of Daniel. That book was a creation of this period, inspired by its sufferings, aspirations, and hopes. The writer, assuming the name and authority of a traditional hero,—by that easy confusion of the ideal and the historical which we have seen before,—blends with stories of unconquerable fidelity and divine deliverance his own interpretation of the world's recent history and probable future. It is an early essay in what we call the philosophy of history, the first recorded conception of a world-drama. Median, Persian, Greek, and Roman monarchies move their appointed course and pass away. God's plan is working itself out, and the culmination is yet to come. In vision the prophet beholds it: the "Ancient of days," with garment white as snow and hair like pure wool, upon a throne like fiery flame, with wheels as burning fire. Thousands of thousands minister before him: the judgment is set and the books are opened. One like the Son of Man comes with the clouds of heaven, and there is given to him dominion and glory and a kingdom which shall not pass away. In his kingdom shall be gathered the saints of the Most High. Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to ever-lasting life and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
This was the figure in which the Jewish imagination clothed the Jewish hope. The national and the individual future blent in one anticipation. The dead were to "sleep in the dust" until the day when the divine kingdom was established, and then were to rise again to life, and according to their deserts were to share the endless glory or shame.
So philosophy makes its essay at the destiny of mankind. So imagination fashions its pictures. And back of philosophy and imagination we trace the elemental and highest forces of the soul. It is martyrdom and motherhood that inspire the immortal hope. Man faces the worst that can befall him—drinks the hemlock or suffers the torture—rather than be false to duty. The mother broods over the life mysteriously sprung from her own, and given back by her as a sacred trust to the service of the right and to an unseen keeping. And to martyr and mother comes the voice, "All shall be well with thee and thine."
Christianity, inheriting from Judaism the belief in immortality, gave it a more central place, and a more appealing force. Of the older religion, the special characteristic—compared with the Greek and Roman world—was the impressing upon a whole people of a law of conduct, in which with a multitude of external ceremonies were bound up the fundamental principles of justice, benevolence, and chastity, enforced by the authority of a personal and righteous God. We see the educational effect upon the religious Hebrew of this clearly personal God. It constantly lifted him out of the littleness of self-consciousness, setting before his imagination the loftiest object. It gave definiteness and impressiveness to his best ideals. And, further, this anthropomorphism, as we name it now, was but the primitive expression of the principle which is central in all forms of religious faith, that man and the universe are in some deepest sense at one, and that man's closest approach to the secret of the universe lies through his own noblest development. That is one way of saying what the Jew felt when his imagination gave to the sternest command and the highest promise the sanction, "Thus saith the Lord."
The Hebrew religion was wrought out under constant pressure of disaster. It was the religion of a proud, brave people, who were constantly held in subjection to foreign conquerors. Hence came a quality of intense hostility to these tyrannical foes, and also a constant appeal to the Divine Power which seemed often to conceal itself. Hence—and from that sorrowful lot of the individual which often matches this national tragedy—hence comes the passionate, pleading, poignant quality through which the Old Testament has always spoken to the struggling and suffering,—with gleams of hope, the more intense from the clouds through which they shine.