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mother, Yan-she, and from his earliest years, displayed an estraordinary love of learning and veneration for the ancient laws of his country. The prudence, rectitud?, and philosophic gravity of his conduct while a boy, are also highly extolled by Chinese writers. At the age of 17, he was made an inspector of the corn-marts, and distinguished himself by his industry and energy in repressing fraud, and introducing order and integrity inta the whole.:business. When only 19, Confucius married, but divorced his wife four years after marriage,* that he mighiIrave more time for study and the performance of his public duties. Confucius was next appointed inspectorgeneral of pastures and flocks, and the result of his judicious measures, we are told, was a general improvement in the cultivation of the country and the condition of the people. The death of his mother, which happened in his 23d year, interrupted for a time his administrative functions, and gave occasion to the first solemn and important act of Confucius as a moral reformer. According to the ancient, but then almost forgotten laws of China, children were obliged to resign all public employments on the death of either of their parents ; and Confucius, desirous of renewing the observance in his native land of all the practices of venerable antiquity, did not fail to conform to this long neglected enactment. The solemnity and splendour of the burial ceremony with which he honoured the remains of his mother (another old custom which had fallen into disuse), struck his fellow citizens with astonishment, and they determined, for the future, to bury their dead with the ancient honours. Their example was followed by the neighboring states, and the whole nation, except the poorest class, has continued the practice to the present day. Confucius now came to be looked upon as an authority in regard to the past, and ventured to speak as such. He inculcated the necessity of stated acts of homage and respect towards the dead, either at the grave, or in a part of the dwelling-house conse
This is an unsettled point in the history of Confucius.
crated for the purpose. Hence, 'the hall of ancestors,' and anniversary feasts of the dead, which now distinguish China as a nation. Confucius did not end here. He shut himself up in his house to pass in solitude the three years of mourning for his mother, the whole of which time he dedicated to philosophical study. We are told that he reflected deeply on the eternal laws of morality, traced them to their source, imbued his mind with a sense of the duties which they impose indiscriminately on all men, and determined to make them the immutable rules of all his actions. Henceforth, his career is only an illustration of his ethical system. He commenced to instruct his countrymen in the precepts of morality, exhibiting in his own person all the virtues he inculcated on others. Gradually his disciples increased, as the practical character of his philosophy became more apparent. After his 'years of mourning' and meditation were over, Confucius travelled through various states, in some of which he was employed as a public reformer. On his return to Lu, his reputation was very great, not less than 500 mandarins being among his followers. In fact, it is to be observed, that generally Confucius' disciples were not the young and enthusiastic, but men of middle age, sober, grave, respectable, and occupying important public situations. This fact throws light both on the character and design of his philosophy. It was ethical, not religious, and aimed exclusively at fitting men for conducting themselves honourably and prudently in this life. Confucius now divided his scholars into four classes; to the first, he taught morals; to the seccond, rhetoric; to the third, politics; and to the fourth, the perfection of their style in written compositions. While residing at Lu, Confucius worked industriously in the revision and abridgment of those works which constituted the principal monuments of that ancient literature about which he was always speaking in the language of unbounded reverence.
An unworthy change of magistrates, however, in the king
dom of Lu induced Confucius to recommence his travels. He first proceeded to Chen, where he was not much appreciated; and afterwards to Tze, where he became one of the king's ministers, but was dismissed after a short time through the intrigues of cunning courtiers. On his return to Lu, he was appointed governor of the people.' For a time his inflexible virtue awed them into morality, and the delighted monarch conferred the highest dignities on the philosopher; but the arrival of a bevy of beautiful syrens from a neighbouring state, which hated the increasing purity of Lu, suddenly overturned the edifice of morality which Confucius was constructing; and in despair, he again went abroad in search of less vacillating disciples. His later wanderings were very unpropitious; state after state refused to be improved. He was in some instances persecuted; once he was imprisoned, and nearly starved ; and finally, seeing no hope of securing the favourable attention of the mass of his countrymen while alive, he returned in extreme poverty to his native state, and spent his last years in the composition of literary works, by which posterity at least might be instructed. He died 479 B. C., in the 70th year of his age. Immediately after his death, and notwithstanding the general demoralization of his contemporaries, Confucius began to be venerated, and succeeding ages adorned his name with golden epithets. His family, which has continued to the present day, through 67 or 68 generations, in the very place where their ancestor lived, is distinguished by various honours and privileges, being the only example of hereditary aristocracy in China, while in every city down to those of the third order there is a temple to his honour. The 18th day of the second moon is kept sacred by the Chinese as the anniversary of his death.
Dr. Legge dates the birth of Confucius 21st of 10th month 551 B. C., and his death the 11th day of the 4th month 478
DOCTRINES OF CONFUCIUS.
The doctrines of Confucius relate principally to the ethics of political and social life. The attainment of perfect virtue is the true aim of living ; none can live well who do not so regard it.
It has been charged against him that he ignores the personal God, and but slightly recognizes a future life. It would seem a sufficient refutation to the first charge, that Confucius observed the religious ceremonies which fully enough recognized the idea. It would not be fair to charge him thus with these words upon his lips, “He who offends against Heaven has none to whom he can pray.” (Analects, 3: 13, and 14: 13.) “ But there is Heaven that knows me.” Would any one question that Heaven as here used is a proper name ? To show his trust and confidence in God, and that his troubles which were many and great came not of his appointment, see the sentence prefacing the last quoted sentence: “I do not murmur against Heaven."
Dr. Legge argues, from the absence of the name of God in the Analects, that Confucius was “un-religious,” if not atheistical. It does not appear to be a fair rule of judging a man who has been brought up to virtue and piety, and in the constant practice of the rites of religion, that he must be held un-religious simply because of the infrequency, or even non-use of the name of the Deity he worships. The Jews held the proper name of God in such esteem as to be above utterance by mortal speech, substituting modified terms, and the custom has always been named to their praise. Why may not Confucius have equal praise?
The worship of God was more nearly universal in China than in the Theocracy of Israel. Confucius said, “I consider my not being present at the sacrifice as if I did not sacri. fice." It seems difficult indeed to sustain such a charge against a man with such a record as even Dr. Legge gives Confucius. The Dr. adds, “ At any rate as by his frequent references to Heaven, instead of following the phraseology of the older sages, he gave occasion to many of his followers to identify God with a principle of reason and the course of nature.” Of these matters each reader can decide for himself. I think it will be found the rule rather than the exception, that the frequent use in worship or religions of the title of the Supreme Being, comes from those who grew up in ignorance and profanity, and who can only date their interest in these things to late periods of this life, or after sin has blighted or stained the character. Jesus himself prefers the more endearing and humane appellations, “ Heavenly Father,” “Our Father," which, by Dr. Legge's rule, subject him to charges of being un-religious, and his enemies tried to make Him irreligious, from which charge Dr. Legge spares Confucius.
Dr. Legge charges Confucius with an insufficient and almost want of belief in a future life. Few records of a like antiquity are more full of this belief; even the Dr.'s own words go against his theory. “Along with the worship of God there existed in China, from the earliest historical times, the worship of other spiritual beings,-especially, and to every individual, the worship of departed ancestors.” Confucius recognized this as an institution to be devoutly observed. “He sacrificed to the dead as if they were present; he sacrificed to the spirits as if the spirits were present. He said, 'I consider my not being present at the sacrifice as if I did not sacrifice.!” The custom must have originated from a belief of the continued existence of the dead. We cannot suppose that they who instituted it thought that with the cessation of this life on earth there was a cessation also of all conscious being. How is it with the Hebrew scripture on this subject? If Confucius did not trouble himself about “the great problems of the human condition and destiny," as Dr. Legge complains, he did more fully and positively recognize a state of being for man hereafter than do the scriptures he would exchange with