« PrécédentContinuer »
confidently than I ever do; and on this account, it is matter of some surprise to a portion of your friends, that you should manifest the weakness of an unmanly, or, as you were wont to say, an unphilo. sophic sorrow. Others, who scoff at philosophy as mere jargon, seem to exult, not, I would believe, at your dejected bearing under affliction, but rather, let us in charity say, at the refutation of your philosophy, which they find in your example.
Logos.—The principles of my philosophy do, indeed, require that I should sustain an unyielding fortitude, under even the weightiest afflictions to which we can be subjected. I have felt that my friends expected as much of me, and that the enemies of my philosophy would triumph over my weakness. I have, therefore, striven, both from principle and the love of consistency, to conceal what my own heart has but too bitterly felt. But you say I have not succeeded, and in truth, I have lost all desire to succeed. The power of my grief is greater than that of my philosophy; and in yielding, as I must, to the one, I lose even the desire to honor the other. Indeed, my faculty for pleasure seems to be paralyzed; and even if I could illustrate and prove, by my example, the precepts of my philosophy, it could not afford me any gratification. The chord, which once vibrated in unison with all joyous things, has lost its tension-the music of my soul is hushed-its harp is hung upon the willows, and it weeps--weeps evermore-for the dead. What more hath life!
Fido.—It grieves me to see you so much moved, and both my nature and my faith teach me to “weep with those that weep."
Logos.--My cherished friend, your sympathy soothes, but it cannot heal my sorrow.
We will be calm. Fido.--Grief is natural to the human heart, and is forbidden neither by a sound philosophy nor by religion. But the Christian “sorrows not as those who have no hope"-as the philosopher does; and it is on this difference between the man who humbly relies upon Christ, and the self-sufficient philosopher, that I desire to submit a few thoughts for your consideration. I hope our friendship will excuse my liberty.
Logos.--I shall hear you with respect: I would it could be with profit. Proceed.
Fido.-With respect to the interpretative power of reason, we do not differ.
We both regard it as the function in man to which al} truth is addressed, and by which it is understood and received. We also believe that it possesses the ground forms, or ideas, into which all things connected with our present relations are cast, and thus moulded or fashioned into knowledge. But it is when you claim for reason the power of independent direction--a self-informing and self-sufficient potency, by which it can, unaided by revelation, discover all that is necessary to our guidance through life, and elabo. rate from its own resources all that we need to satisfy our desires and soothe our griefs--then it is that I am constrained to differ from you, and to say, that for these ends, reason must turn to revelation for help.
Logos.—You state correctly the radical difference in our sentiments on this subject. You have, indeed, often called my attention to it before, but not feeling that insufficiency of which you speak, I, of course, was not in a situation to weigh with interest your reason. ing. On the contrary, I felt myself sustained by the example of many ancient philosophers, who did not enjoy the light of Christi. anity, and who, therefore, could not derive their strength from revelation, but from philosophy. I reasoned thus : « These ancient sages passed through the severest afflictions of human experience, and sustained and comforted themselves by their philosophy, and why shall not I, when afflictions come, find in my philosophy like strength and comfort ?" I certainly expected to do so,
but my expe. rience is as you too well know, bitter disappointment.
Fido.—You will grant me, that our happiness consists of possession and hope. The past, except so far as it has contributed to our present possessions, or laid the foundation for future hopes, can contribute nothing whatever to our happiness. Stoicism is not happiness, else the man who could most nearly reduce himself to insensuous matter, would be best entitled to be called happy. Happiness is positive enjoyment, and must arise from the possession or anticipation of realities. Hence it would appear reasonable to con. clude, that a system of philosophy which does not replace our losses by some present possession or future hope, cannot be suited to make us happy. Accordingly, if we look closely into the cases among the ancients, to which you appeal, we shall find that all their comfort under affliction, was derived from their belief in a future state of happiness, under the just reign of the gods.
Logos.-But you will agree with me, that this was but the blindest superstition. Their philosophy I admire and retain; their superstition I despise and reject.
Fido.--That their mythology, as a system, was superstitious, I: agree, but their belief in a future state I would rather say was traditional, borrowed, perhaps, from the Jews, or still more primitive sources. Plato, in “The Apology for Socrates," makes him, in. referring to the doctrine of a future state, speak of it as a traditioni “ For to die,says he, “ is one of two things: for either the dead may be annihilated, and have no sensation of any thing whatever; or, as it is said, there is a certain change and passage of the soul from one place to another.” And again, “But if, on the other hand, death is a removal from hence to another place, and what is said be true, that all the dead are there, what greater blessing can there be than this, my judges ?" But however this may be, the part of their creed which you reject, was the only part from which the ancient philosophers drew any comfort under their afflictions.
Logos.--I have not so understood it. On the contrary, I have rather regarded them as deriving their highest pleasure from the pursuit of virtue, and the consciousness of a just and well spent life. In the lofty contemplation of truth, beauty and goodness; in admi. ration of the variety, magnitude, and number of nature's forms, and the delightful converse and interchange of philosophic spirits, I have ever regarded these sages of hoary antiquity as seeking and finding all their enjoyment in prosperity, and their sufficient comfort and solace in adversity.
Fido.--Your present experience must prepare you for discerning the radical mistake into which your hitherto uninterrupted enjoy ment of your philosophy has led you; for you must now feel that something essential to our happiness may be taken from us, and that hope, also, must shine upon our path, to make it cheerful. But let me fortify my statements by the language of the greatest philosopher who ever lived. Plato makes Socrates say,
6. Those who pur: sue philosophy rightly, study to die; and to them, of all men, death is least formidable. Judge from this, since they allogether hate the body, and desire to keep the soul by itself, would it not be irrational if, when this comes to pass, they should be afraid and grieve, and not be glad to go to that place, where, on their arrival, they may hope to obtain that which they longed for throughout life ; but they longed for wisdom, and to be freed from association with that which they hated? Have many, of their own accord, wished to descend into Hades, on account of human objects of affection, their wives and sons, induced by this very hope of there seeing and being with those whom they have loved; and shall one who really loves wisdom, and finally cherishes this very hope, that he shall no where else attain it in a manner worthy of the name, except in Hades, be grieved at dying, and not gladly go there? We must think that he would gladly go, my friend, if he be in truth a philosopher; for he will be firmly persuaded of this, that he will no where else but there obtain wisdom in its purity; and if this be so, would it not be very irrational, as I just now said, if such a man were to be afraid of death ?"
Logos.-It must be conceded, that Plato represents Socrates as sulacing himself while under the sentence, and in the immediate prospect of death, with some vague hopes of future enjoyments. In anticipation of meeting in Hades with certain admired ancients, he seems, indeed, enraptured, and exclaims to his judges, “At what price would you not estimate a conference with Orpheus and Musæus, Hesiod and Homer? I, indeed, should be willing to die often, if this be true. For to me the sojourn there would be admirable, when I should meet with Palamedes, and Ajax, son of Telamon, and any other of the ancients who have died by an unjust sentence. The comparing my sufferings with theirs, would, I think, be no unpleasing occupation. But the greatest pleasure would be to spend my time in questioning and examining the people there, as I have done those here, and discovering who among them is wise, and who fancies himself to be so but is not. At what price, my judges, would not any one estimate the opportunity of questioning him who led that mighty army against Troy, or Ulysses, or Sisyphus, or ten thousand others, whom one might mention, both men and women? * with whom to converse and associate, and question them, would be an inconceivable happiness. Surely for that the judges there do not condemn to death; for in other respects, those who live there are more happy than those that are here, and are henceforth immortal, if at least what is said be true.” This I remember to have read in “ The Defence of Socrates,” but I have always regarded it as purely superstitious, and unworthy of philosophy.
Fido.--It is not for the purpose of deciding whether these hopes were superstitious or not, that I have referred to them; but it is to show that whatever these systems afforded of solace to grief, of comfort to affliction, of hope to bereavement, or of retribution to injury, was derived from that part of them which you reject-from the belief which their advocates cherished of a future state of happiness for the virtuous and pure. It is to this point that I wish particularly to fix your attention, as I think it will enable you to explain the reason of your present despondency, and why it is that your philosophy does not afford you the same support and comfort under your present sore bereavement, which the ancient philoso. phers, under trials equally heavy, derived from theirs.
Logos.—You present this point to me with a prominence, under which I never before observed it. Still, as I regard the hopes which these philosophers cherished as altogether supertitious, I cannot, after all, see what advantage it can prove to me to view it as you do.
Fido.-I shall have gained much, if I can lead you to see that no system has proved adequate to the wants and desires of our nature, which does not include some hope of future being and bliss. I shall then have prepared your mind for a favorable consideration of the philosophy of Christianity, and have conducted you to a position from which you can regard, with proper appreciation, the hope of the gospel. But an engagement at this hour compels me, for the present, to leave you. May I ask you to reflect upon the point which I have made till we meet again, and, from the rich stores of your varied learning, test its correctness ?
Logos.- Your friendly earnestness interests me, and I will do so. Perhaps the interest of the investigation will repay the labor, but more than this my heart tells me is impossible. Farewell.
W, K. P.
SACRED LITERATURE. HAVING attended a meeting of the “ American Literary Society of Bethany College," a few evenings since, and being very much gratified with the literary entertainment prepared for the occasion, and especially with the following blooming eulogy on the value and importance of Sacred Literature, very handsomely pronounced by Mr. A. G. Thomas, of Georgia, I requested a copy of it to present to the junior readers of the Harbinger.
I had not the pleasure of being present at a similar meeting of the “ Neotrophian Society," a few evenings before, but was gratified to learn that it, also, furnished sundry performances of very considerable merit.
Literary Societies in Colleges, under proper regulations and good parliamentary order, are very important auxiliaries in obtaining a good and practical collegiate education. These societies in Bethany College have, from its foundation, been generally conducted with much propriety, and are annually increasing their libraries and means of improvement.
Ladies and Gentlemen : The pages of Sacred Literature are decked with flowers, studded with gems, and laden with a mental harvest