« EelmineJätka »
perceive the utter absurdity. The facts we have already cited prove, on the contrary, that it was by ecclesiastical hands that tower was destroyed. But “its defence was entrusted by Providence" to the Church. If so, we can only say, Providence made a great mistake. The intention of the writer, however, is evident, he means to say that the Church performed this trust. Sueh a statement may pass muster with many, from the commonly received opinion that the Church was the great conservator of learning through the Middle Ages, when all other parts of the community were utterly averse to it, and when, as Waddington says, they were closely wrapped in ignorance. But the question remains to be asked - Had they (as he states) wrapped themselves in this ignorance ? had not the Church done this for them ? The answer to this question is found in the fact, already proven, that the growth of ignorance closely followed the establishment of priestly authority. Therefore, even if it could be shown that the Church was the conservator of learning during this period, we should still have to say, "Thank you for nothing ! seeing that you rendered its conservation necessary.' But, in fact, there was no such conservation ; and the revival of learning (as we undertake to prove to the satisfaction of our readers) came from quite other sources than the Church.
The statement, however, that the Church played an importatant part in this matter is frequently sought to be proved, by means of the unquestionable historical facts, that the monasteries afforded a shelter to the only men of thought those ages saw, and that the monks were the scribes who preserved and multiplied certain ancient MSS. wherein some, though a very small portion, of the literature of Greece and Rome was contained. But it should ever be remembered that these so-called men of thought were mainly reproducers of the theses and doctrines of the Church Fathers, and that they wrote in the interest of the Church, and for the priesthood. The preservation and reproduction of very inaccurate copies of some few old MSS. is an accidental, but very trivial benefit, which the monks certainly conferred, * but no use was made of the riches they contained, and it was not until the operation of causes, in which the Church had no part, that they became of any value.
It must, doubtless, be admitted that amongst the early Fathers of the Church are found many men of great learning, who took broad and independent views, and refused to be bound in the chains of intellectual slavery. But no sooner had the Church in the fourth century cemented its alliance with the State, and priests had thus become invested with power to domineer over the reason and consciences of men, than a change becomes perceptible. It is no longer truth after which Church writers and theologians seek. The aim evident in the whole of the literature of the Church, from that time down to the fall of the Roman Empire, is, to support the claims of the priesthood ; and
! then, as we have seen, the political chaos resulting from the overthrow of the Empire afforded the means for an unscrupulous spiritual despotism to crush out all freedom of thought, both within and without the Church, nay, almost to prevent thought at all. The legends of Saints, and other similar productions, which form the literature of the period, abundantly testify to this. The “Church of the Dark Ages kept men in the ignorance she had thus induced so long as she could, and when Europe awoke from its lethargy the only course taken by her was to oppose the movement.
JAS. L. GOODING:
* The reader may consult Berington's " Literary History of the Middle Ages" on this subject Book vi.), and he will perceive that we have done more than justice to the monks. Berington being a Catholic is of course an unexceptionable authority.
LIFE AND DOCTRINES OF KHOUNG-FOU-USZE
(CONFUCIUS). § 2.-BOYHOOD, STUDENT LIFE, AND MARRIAGE. The boyhood of Confucius was passed under the eye of his mother and grandfather, Coum-tse, and all the anecdotes related of those early years tend to show how remarkably he was distinguished by those qualities most highly esteemed by his countrymen--a profound reverence for his parents and ancestors, and a passionate love for the writings of the ancient sages. playful boy nothing pleased him more than to collect a number of playmates of his own age, and induce them to practise the ceremonials of pious respect to their elders-bending down till their foreheads touched the floor, and when they would not consent he turned away to practise before inanimate objects. Thus early the seeds of obedience, filial love, and reverence for the wise, were cherished by him as ardently as in his latest years, when he laid it down as an everlasting law, that filial piety and respect for the wise should be esteemed as amongst the highest human virtues.
At the age of seven he entered a public school, the master being both a magistrate and governor, besides being a man eminent alike for probity and 'wisdom. To the modern European, acquainted with the comparatively declining condition of China, it sounds strange, that at a period so remote Confucius should have been sent to a public school. The battle to be fought in Europe in the nineteenth century is educational. We are still struggling, and likely to struggle, to impress upon the governing bodies the fact that to educate the young is one of the first and cheapest duties of a State ; but this truth was perceived and acted upon in China some hundreds of years before Confucius was born. The authorities of a province were bound by law to see that all the children in their district were sent to school ; but they were not made masters of the schools. The ancient system still prevails. The heads of the villages, and of the districts of the cities, when about to found a school, assemble and deliberate on the choice of a master, and the salary to be allowed him. The government has no control over the appointment, but sends its examiners to every school, and if none of the boys pass, the wise men of the district look out for another master. Confucius was in no danger of being plucked,' for he took to study as naturally as the white bear takes to water. The great difficulty found by the master was in being able to keep sufficiently in advance of his pupil; eventually he abandoned the task as hopeless, admitting that the memory and genius of the ardent student were too great to be emulated by him.
It is related of Confucius that during his school-days he observed his grandfather, "Coum-tse, sitting absorbed in a melancholy mood, sighing " both deeply and painfully. Having advanced towards him with his usual bow “ of reverence, the boy said, 'If I may presume without violating the respect I "! owe you, sir, to inquire into the cause of your grief, I would gladly do so.
Perhaps you fear that I, who am descended from you, may reflect discredit on "your memory by failing to imitate your virtues. The old man was much "surprised at what he heard, and inquired from whom he had learned to "speak so wisely. From yourself sir,” said Confucius. 'I listen attentively to
your words, and I have frequently heard you say that a son who does not
«« imitate the virtues of his ancestors deserves not to bear their name.' ") The old man was delighted with bis grandson, and so far interested himself in promoting his fortune that at the age of seventeen he was employed in the public service. For this, however, he was well qualified. As a student he had applied himself to the study of history and politics; had mastered the classical works of his country, and had learnt the true causes of the decline and threatened fall of the minor kingdoms. He wished for public employment, not merely for the honour and emoluments it brought, but from a conscientious desire to do something towards establishing a better condition of things. Simple-minded and patriotic, he entered the service of his country, and from that hour his name, his doctrines, and his example became inseparably mixed up with the interests, the progress, and the literature of China.
The first office he held was that of a subordinate magistrate, from which he was advanced to the post of "superintendent of cattle.' This office is understood to have been connected with the revenue. Many taxes were paid in kind, and therefore a trusty active man was required to manage the business. From this,' because of his probity,' he was raised to the post of inspector of the sale and distribution of corn, at which he continued until he was in his twenty-third year, when, in order to mourn rightly' the death of his mother, he was compelled to surrender his office. The officials were much astonished when he commenced his public career at finding that he did nothing by deputy which he could do himself. The prevailing custom in his province was for one man to hold the office while another did the work ; one had the honour and the emoluments, the other the toil and difficulty; but Confucius would not lend himself to that system. Rising early in the morning he went through the official reports, and detected the dishonesty of his inferiors—a dishonesty which was then almost as universal in China as it is at present. He, however, applied himself to the task of hunting down all offenders of that stamp, for although it was earnestly endeavoured, none of the old bands could persuade him either to leave the work to them, or to believe that robbing the state was any less a crime than robbing a private person. Here, then, was a plain honest man, who meant what he said, who believed in honesty, and who would not allow even a monarch to name his price. Frequently he came into contact with men who had grown grey in office, whose frauds had been winked at by former inspectors, who probably shared the spoil; but whenever compelled to dismiss them from their post, he did so in a manner that made even the delinquents admire the simplicity and straitforwardness of his proceedings, and rendered it impossible for them to suggest that he had any other motive than the honest desire to do the best for all.
The mother of Confucius as a woman, but especially as a Chinese woman, naturally felt interested about her son's marriage. In all countries this is an anxious topic for parents to discuss, but in China it becomes more important, in consequence of their ancestral ideas. They desire above all things to see their sons married, because if they have children there will be descendants to continue to offer the regular sacrifice to their ancestors. In Europe the young man generally takes great interest in that marriage question; he is popularly supposed to select his own bride, and correctly so as far as the working classes are concerned, among whom it usually happens in that fashion ; but not 80 when the monied classes are implicated. In our times, and among the higher and richer orders of society, the marriage question is approached very
* Meng-tseu. i. 4:
- tenderly, and purely as a matter of business. The question, “What has she
“got for a marriage settlement ? is asked with perfect coolness, and with far greater earnestness than the more important one, "What sort of a wife “ would she make?” In China, also, it was, and still is, made a matter of business, with this great advantage over the Europeans, that they practise no sort of hypocrisy about it. They do not pretend that it is an affair of love, or talk about the blessings that attend the married state when two loving
hearts are united,' when, in truth, as they all know, love has less than money to do with the match. Among them the matter is generally arranged without troubling the parties most immediately concerned. They are not even consulted about the bride or the marriage-day. The young man pursues his studies, thinking little of taking a wife, or of the attendant advantages ;-the young woman plies her needle, and goes on with her house-work, giving no time to thoughts of who shall be her wedded lord—such at least is the common mode of stating the matter ; but, can it be anything more than an idle theory? The old people manage the whole affair.
Fathers sometimes through the pressure of famine find that they can buy young girls cheap for their sons ; they purchase when the market is low, and rear them until old enough to be married, when they are given over with the usual ceremonies to the son.
Or in cases where such cautious provision has not been made, they cast about for fitting brides, or apply to the 'go bel weens,' a class of people who undertake the task of matchmaking, to find out a proper bride. After this has been accomplished the old people appoint to meet and drink a little tea together, when the matter is talked over, and the bargain is concluded. In India they give treasure with the bride, but in China they expect to receive it for the bride: she is bound by law to work for her parents; they of course sustain a loss when she is taken away, and for this loss compensation is demanded. According to the condition of the family it is given, and thus all being happily concluded, with the exception of naming the day, the condition of affairs is stated to the bridal pair, and they are ordered to prepare for the happy event. It was thus the mother of Confucius had proceeded, and when informed that a wife had been found for him, he professed himself pleased, and admitted that he was bound to obedience.
The wedding-day in China is fixed by the astrologers. The nativities of the intended couple are handed over to the wise men, who are supposed to be able to declare truly whether it will be lucky for them to marry on the proposed day; if they object to the day already named they name another, and sometimes marriages are thus postponed for months, "until the time " arrives when the natal stars of the bride and bridegroom are not in
opposition," and they can with safety go through the ceremonies. But the common opinion, as current now as in the days of Confucius, fixed upon
the first moon in February as that of all others the most fortunate. idea prevailed through Europe, as our Valentine's Day clearly indicates. The Chinese have written a great deal, both in poetry and prose, in proof of this, which, however, like all other proofs in similar cases, falls far short of its aim. Sir William Jones translated several of these fragments, and as a specimen we quote two verses out of “Confucius's book of Sacred Odes”-he collected many such passages :
“Sweet child of spring, the garden's queen,
Yon peach-tree charms the roving sight,
Its blossoms, how divinely bright!
The same So softly shines the beauteous bride,
By love and conscious yirtue led,
And placid joys around her spread." The propitious spring day at length arrived when the student turned away from his books and his public studies; the bride was led to the bride, groom's home in grand procession, the usual abundant feast was given ; loud was the revelry, and long it lasted, while numerous as well as rich were the presents from admiring friends. The following year a son was born, Confucius' only child, and shortly afterwards he separated from his wife. It is impossible to explain how this came about, for the popular accounts are very contradictory. In some Missionary books the fact is stated as affording & powerful proof of how low the heathens must fall. But seeing that there were orthodox Davids and Christian Henries, we may conclude that the heathen have no monopoly on that score. Some say incompatibility of temper was the cause, but the generally accredited version is to the effect that the Sage found it impossible to pursue his studies amid family cares, and thus wedded to his books, and teaching, and public duties, he determined upon a separation. Whether this be true or not we cannot say; but the unquestioned purity of his life renders it impossible to assume that he was actuated by any low or selfish motive.
P. W. P.
PROPHECY AND THE LAWS OF NATURE. When the Freethinker discusses the Messianic and other prophecies, when he shows that none of them met the character and aims of Jesus, proves that they pointed to a great deliverer who was to exalt the Hebrew nation from the dust, and re-edify its broken throne, and relies upon the fact that the Hebrews admit no such deliverer has yet appeared—that they have not been redeemed-it is asked if he is not assailing all prophecy, and attempting to cover with disgrace that which so many deem sacred. To this question we have a complete answer. There is a truth underlying the forms of propheoy. Humanity has not been in error regarding the fact that to predict truly is possible, but only regarding the means and the instances. A science of prophecy is quite possible ; but as yet we are only beginning to collect its elements into one focus. There was the possibility of a science of astronomy long ages before men began to collect its actual elements. They knew that such a science could be, but they went to their imaginations to find the materials with which it should be built up. The cardinal error was that imagination was permitted to create the facts they were to use as data in the science. There could be but one result-general delusion. A time came, however, when the real data were found, when all the idle imaginative crudities were cast away to be no more felt as checks to their progress, and since that day there has been no cessation, no positive standing
still in the march of discovery, so that astronomy is now greeted as one of the positive sciences whose data are all demonstrable.
What does prophecy aim at achieving? Is it not a foretelling, a reading out in the present, of what shall be hereafter ? Man sows his seed, and desires to know if there will come a good harvest. Who can tell ? Surely not of this one year, but science says unto him, 'I can tell you that if you sow for forty-five years you will have thirty-five good harvests, five buť indifferent