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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, 3:18, and 14:13.) “But there is Heaven that knows me.” Would any one question that Heaven as here used is a proper name 7 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 sacrifice.” 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 contin
ued 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 them, of a like date. He makes very much of his charge against Confucius' insincerity as recorded in Analects 17:20, and this he makes to be but trivial compared with his violation of a promise forced upon him. He thinks his excuse disgraceful indeed. “It was a forced oath. The spirits do not hear such.” Dr. Legge asks, “What shall we say of this, —his deliberately breaking the oath which he had sworn, simply on the ground that it had been forced upon him 7” Dr. Legge need not give himself so much concern about this as affecting Confucius' standing as a man of sincerity. These two incidents make the whole ground of the charge, and all the “natural result of the un-religion of Confucius.” He charges a general want of truth among the Chinese to this single case. Whether they are greater liars than Dr. Legge's own nation may not be left entirely for him to decide, but his case is doubtful with Confucius to say the least.
There are several points of doctrine in the works of Confucius that may need a passing notice, though the language of the text is clear enough. He is a consistent theist. He believed in Immortality for man. His aim in this life was perfect virtue. His system of education was superior to that of the Hebrew, or any of the Western nations of that time. Of his theory of morals a striking analogy has been discovered between the so-called Golden Rule of Jesus, “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so to them,” and Confucius' Analects, 15:23. “Tsze-kung asked, saying, ‘Is there one word which may serve as a rule of practice for all one’s life?” The Master said, ‘Is not RECIPRocITY such a word? What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others;” and again, 5th chap., “What I do not wish men to do to me, I also wish not to do to men.” The same things are stated in the Doctrine of the Mean and the Great Learning.
It has been objected to the Great Learning that it is beyond the reach of ordinary minds, or that it is for rulers or emperors, and not for ordinary minds. The seven steps may be all taken by any one, even in the humblest aspects of life. They are “the investigation of things; the completion of knowledge; the sincerity of the thoughts; the rectifying of the heart; the cultivation of the person; the regulation of the family; and the government of the State.” The sanctions of religion as taught by the so called orthodox churches, that is, Heaven and Hell, do not enter the lists of incentives to virtue in Confucius' code, and this perhaps more than aught else, has caused the missionaries to object to his system of practising virtue for virtue's sake.
BOOK I. HEO UREI.
CHAPTER I. 1. The Master said, “Is it not pleasant to learn with a constant perseverance and application ? 2. “Is it not delightful to have friends coming from distant quarters? 3. “Is he not a man of complete virtue, who feels no discomposure though men may take no note of him?” II. 1. The philosopher Yew said, “They are few who, being filial and fraternal, are fond of offending against their superiors. There have been none, who, not liking to offend against their superiors, have been fond of stirring up confusion. 2. “The superior man bends his attention to what is radical. That being established, all practical courses naturally grow up. Filial piety and fraternal submission'—are they not the root of all benevolent actions?” III. The Master said, “Fine words and an insinuating appearance are seldom associated with true virtue.” IV. The philosopher Tsang said, “I daily examine myself on three points:—whether, in transacting business for others, I may have been not faithful;-whether, in intercourse with friends, I may have been not sincere;—whether I may have not mastered and practised the instructions of my teacher.” W. The Master said, “To rule a country of a thousand chariots, there must be reverent attention to business, and sincerity; economy in expenditure, and love