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Lecture 12. Greece.

WE need not stop to consider whether the Aryans or Indo-Europeans had a single clear-cut primitive religion, or whether they are not as a single race more or less a figment of the philologists. Certainly it is hard to believe that peoples physically and morally so different as Colts and Teutons are as near akin as their languages would indicate. However that may be, the earliest Aryan religions in western Asia and the Mediterranean region seem to have gathered round the powers of Nature—the sky and the cloud, the sun and the moon, the night and the dawn, the fire and the wind.1 This is the surface; but in Greece there was a dark background of magic superstitions and “aversions” of evil beings; and there must have been the same sort of thing elsewhere. So far as we find ancestor-worship, it is at any rate subordinate; though the traces of totemism are enough to indicate that it had been a factor of religion in prehistoric times.

These early religions have a general likeness all the way from Italy to India, though there must have been specific differences everywhere. In Greece, for example, the gods of the sea are more prominent, in Italy those of agriculture; and the poetic element, so conspicuous in Greece and India, is almost wanting with the Latins and the Slavs. But this earlier type of religion broke down in divers ways. In Persia it became an austere dualism, in India a polytheistic pantheism, in Greece a frankly anthropomorphic polytheism, while in Rome the gods were little more than abstractions till Greek influence was felt, and religion remained to the end a part of the discipline of the State. The toleration of the earlier Empire was more laxity than principle, and the real toleration of the Edict of Milan was not lasting. Aryan religion might be debased into magic, it might turn to a dualism of good and evil, it might lose itself in pantheism, it might be replaced by philosophy; but from first to last it never developed into the genuine monotheism whose first word is, Thou shalt have no other gods before me. If individuals reached anything above a pantheistic monism, they always had to begin by giving up the first principles of polytheism.

In the whole range of this great development there is no more instructive contrast than that of Greece with India in one direction, with Rome in the other. Leaving Rome till we come to her influence on Christianity, let us look at India. The old pantheon of the Vedas must have grown up in lands of a generally European and Mediterranean character, for in fauna and flora even Afghanistan is much more akin to Greece and Italy than to the basin of the Ganges. So at first sight it does not differ very greatly from what the Greek would seem to have been at a somewhat later date. Its general structure is much the same, though the individual gods correspond imperfectly to each other. But we notice already a significant difference in the way the gods are spoken of. If the Greek was often in doubt what god to address, or by what name to address him, he was clear upon the whole (I mean in early times) that gods have individual differences. There were plenty of confusions; but still distinction is the rule, confusion the exception. Even conflations like Apollo and Dionysus are individual enough. In India confusion is the rule, for if the gods have names they have not much individual character. In a different way, they are almost as abstract as those of Rome; and there was no strong State to keep them apart with fixed and settled rites of worship for each. So there was already a tendency to merge them into one another and look on them as aspects of One. But if the gods represented powers of Nature, and the thought which reached the One was only a process of unification, there was nothing to carry it outside the order of Nature. The forces which had been distributed through the parts of the world were now gathered into a single Force; and that was all. Hence the result was pantheism.

Put the Greeks on their rocky coasts were as much impressed by the changes and variety of Nature as the Indians had been by its exuberance and mystery. The language of the rolling sea is not the language of the flowing Ganges. The landsmen of India feared the “black water,” the mountaineers of Israel beheld from afar their symbol of the barren struggles of restless wickedness; but to the Ionians of Europe and Asia its bright blue waters were an inspiration. Nor is the difference less between the clear hills of Greece and the dank forests of the Indian plains. The Greeks might imagine sirens and centaurs, but they never rioted in monsters as they might have done if they had lived in villages by the side of the mysterious jungle and seen its abounding wealth of life, from the royal tigers downward. Their own bright world was a charm and a fascination: its mystery they felt, but they never let it crush them.

Now, while uniformity can be represented by abstractions, and mystery must be hinted by symbols, variety can only be expressed in the likeness of men. All ages have instinctively personified the changing face of Nature. Thus, while the spirits oft he nether world are often grotesque like Indian gods, the Olympians of Homer arc men, whatever else they are. Zeus and the gods are made in the image and after the likeness of Agamemnon and the men. They are born in time, and have their favoured homes. They feast and quarrel and fight, and burst with laughter like their worshippers. Their one substantial difference from men is immortality: and this is the distinctive mark of a god from Homer's time to the “last of the heroes,” as the oracle calls Cleomedes of Astypalæa. So in Christian times, while the Latins imaged eternal life in a civitas Dei, the Greeks explained it as immortality. Ignatius 2 already speaks of the Lord's Supper as ϕάρμακον ἀθανασίας, and most of his successors find the “deification” of the Christian in the gift of immortality. It is not without need that St. Paul 3 so sharply marks off in advance the Christian conception of eternal life as something more than honour and glory and incorruption.

However, there was upon the whole a great advance in this view of the gods. Human feeling is higher than the uniformity of nature, and the nature-gods became friends of men as soon as they were viewed as men. Hence we find in Greece a primitive familiarity of gods and men which may remind us of Genesis, but is foreign to the genius of Italy. It seemed natural for Zeus to share the feasts of the blameless Ethiopians, or for Poseidon to labour at the walls of Troy, whereas the relations of Numa with Egeria are exceptional at Rome. This intimacy of gods and men is (among the Aryans) peculiarly Greek. There is not much of it among the Teutons, though their gods are as human as those of Homer, differing from men chiefly in their powers of magic.4 If Odin is called All-father, the thought is left vague; and in any case he is no Father of the Vanir. He was not originally the greatest of the gods; and his name at the head of every royal pedigree seems a late insertion. There are no stories like those of Io and Europa, no demigods like Perseus and Hercules. The adventures of the gods are rather with the giantesses—Rindr and Gerdhr and Skadhi—than with women of mortal birth, and the heroes of the North are men and nothing more.

So the Greeks never found an answer to Homer's old problem of the difference between a god and a man. The excellence of gods was human, and the excellence of men was divine. Unlike the clear-cut Latin deus, their θϵὸς was so fluid, so vague, so human, that when once Lysander had been deified as a living man, the custom spread rapidly. Barbarians made gods of their kings from the Pharaohs of Egypt to the Jubas of Mauritania; but the Greeks, to do them justice, worshipped rather beneficence than mere power. Deification was no doubt a fulsome compliment and a very cheap one, sometimes meaning exactly what we mean by a vote of thanks; yet there was often real gratitude behind it. If some deifications represent but passing enthusiasms and flatteries, others were more permanent. The great Roman benefactor Flamininus was not forgotten. It was less the servility of the Senate than the gratitude of the provinces which pressed on Augustus the honours of a god: and foremost in the provinces were Greek cities like Pergamus—“where Satan dwelleth,” grimly adds St. John.5

We shall see presently the bearing of this anthropomorphic thought on Christian and modern tines; but for the present we must return to the decay of the Olympian theology.

Though a perfect philosophy must be a true religion so far as it goes, and a perfect religion must rest on a true philosophy, there was a broad difference of aim and character between Greek philosophy and Greek polytheism. As soon as truth and virtue were set up as aims, it was clear that seekers after truth might set aside a religion which only spoke for custom, and that the quest of virtue would not be helped by ceremonials for which no moral reason could be given. Not that the philosophers ever expressly renounced the Olympian gods. Even the Epicureans treated them with formal respect, and others with something more, for an atheist or two like Diagoras is not worth counting. At the same time they never admitted them as working parts of their systems. The Zeus of Plato or of the Stoics has very little in common with the Zeus of Homer; and the rest of the gods are purely ornamental. In scientific language, they are epiphenomena, for they make no difference in the results.

The earlier Ionian philosophers represent science rather than metaphysics or religion, and therefore have little to do with the conception of the knowledge of God. Thales and his successors are agreed in looking to one form of matter or another as the first principle of all things—the ἀρχή, as Anaximander first called it. The Eleatics also stood for unity, though Xenophanes is undecided between an ideal and a material unity, and both views are represented among his successors. The pluralists of the fifth century, who assumed many original substances instead of one, advanced to the distinction of moving cause from matter; but upon the whole they too keep inside the region of cosmology. Yet the ethical and religious elements in philosophy are steadily gaining on the scientific. Thus Pythagoras mixed up with it an Egyptian doctrine of transmigration, Xenophanes a denunciation of anthropomorphic gods, and Heraclitus a protest against sacrifice, while Empedocles enunciated the principle that like is known by like. But a still more important step was taken when Anaxagoras threw down the hint (for he did not work it out) that “all things lay in confusion together: then came mind and ordered them.” So complete an abandonment of the purely scientific ground could not remain unchallenged. Democritus replied with a system of mechanical naturalism, accounting for the order of the world by he blind movement of atoms, as the Epicureans did later. But Democritus never thought out thought itself, so that he saw no difficulty in joining ethics of freedom to his necessarian physics.

Halting for a moment about the middle of the fifth century B.C., we see that some of the characteristic lines of Greek philosophy had been already laid down. Thus the Eleatics had raised the question of Being, and Anaxagoras and Democritus were agreed in stating the problem as a passage from appearance to reality. Anaxagoras had thrown out the hint that order was the work of mind; while Democritus appears to make knowledge the highest good, and claims the whole world for the wise man's country. But there is no trace yet of any new idea of revelation.

Meanwhile Democritus on one side and the Sophists on the other stand for the scepticism of an age of transition. Change was rapid in the generation after Marathon, when Athens was founding not only a new Empire, but a new kind of empire on the face of the earth. There is no such unsettler of old religion as commerce, whether in the fifth century or the first, or again in the nineteenth. It crumbled first Greek polytheism, then Roman; and now it is crumbling—some say Christianity, but the weakness it has found out belongs rather to those Latin conceptions of Christianity which the Reformation by no means rooted out from northern Europe. However, we can understand the appearance in an age so like our own of Democritus with a mechanical system of physics, and of the Sophists with their disbelief of absolute truth as an attainable thing. In doubting the certainty of knowledge they were thoroughly modern; but their shameless readiness to argue on either side (as if they were advocates) on any thesis whatever was rather a Greek than a modern piece of rhetorical bravado.

Times of doubt are also times of renewed belief. Doubt has always dashed in vain upon the solid rock of human faith in truth. It can but scour the sand away, and show it more deeply rooted than we knew. The great work of Socrates, and of Plato after him, was partly to maintain against the Sophists that truth and right are not conventions, but things of which we can have true knowledge; partly to shift the stress of philosophy to man instead of nature. On one side it was a protest against the πάντων μέτρον ἄνθρωπος of Protagoras; on the other it looked to human nature as the clue to its problems. Again, it worked not like the Sophists by accepting the objections of each school to the doctrines of the next, and concluding that truth is beyond us, but by careful definitions and siftings of arguments—a process carried further and systematized by Aristotle.

Perhaps Plato himself did not exactly know how much of his thought he owed to Socrates, and how much was strictly his own; but however that may be, the ethical advance he marks is enormous. If he uses polytheistic language, especially in his myths, he uses it only for ornament and garnish, or sometimes ironically. For all serious purposes he breaks entirely with the popular religion. He cannot endure gods with passions, gods with vices (especially envy), or gods in human form. He turns away from the revelations of polytheism as having neither serious nor likely proofs, rejecting even astrology with the rest, and sinks religion in philosophy, taking that for our one available test of truth and guide of life, “unless indeed some more sure divine word should come to us.”

Pending this, he goes as nearly by the cold light of reason as a poetic nature and a spiritual instinct will allow him. Atheism is as hateful to him as superstition. There must be a personal origin for a world which is derived: and that origin must be spirit to explain its motion, reason to explain its order and beauty, goodness to explain the rule of justice in it. God is the highest idea of goodness and perfection, seeing all, guiding all, caring for all. His power is limited only by his own moral nature (for he cannot wish to change), by the permanence of evil (for there must always be evil to contrast with good), and by the intractable qualities of matter.

It is beyond my purpose, and in truth beyond my capacity, to enter on any general discussion of the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle; nor should I care in any case to stand within the danger of my distinguished colleague at Aberdeen. One question, however, cannot be passed over, for it must have occurred to you already. What has all this philosophy to do with revelation? If everything is to be worked out by man, where is the need or the room for a revelation? Well, if by revelation we mean a formal communication from heaven, the only trace (among the Greeks) of such an idea is in the appeal of the Pythagoreans in Roman times to the life and sayings of their founder. This may dimly remind us of the Christians, and indeed is not unlikely to have been more or less suggested by their example. But if a wider sense be given (as we have given it) to revelation, we shall find plenty of it in Greek philosophy. Of course it is possible enough to use the philosophical method in the interest of mechanical or agnostic theories; and some of the ancients did so use it, as some of the moderns use it now. But all the better philosophers started with two clear convictions—that there is a spark of the divine in man, and that the laws of the world which he discovers are divine thought. The one was inherited from polytheism, the other the acquisition of a science which was not irreligious; and the two together amount nearly to what we meant by saying that God's image within recognizes God's truth without. This, as we have seen, is revelation; and it is none the less revelation for coming to us in one way rather than another. So long as we recognize both its elements we may take it either from the divine side as the Jews did, or from the human like the Greeks. Either plan has its advantages; and if the Greek method lends itself to irreligion, it is no way irreligious in itself. Greek and Jew alike broke down in the end; but if we compare the later philosophy with Pharisaism, we may fairly question whether it was the greater failure of the two.

The Greeks had their limitations like the rest of us. With all their thirst for knowledge, their splendid power of thinking, their command of language, their exquisite sense of order and beauty, their genuine religion and passion for abstract truth, they never made truth to cover the entire scope of life. For instance, though they were by far the most scientific of ancient nations, they were commonly wanting in patience for toilsome research and accurate statement of scientific facts. Thus Hipparchus and Eratosthenes are exceptions in astronomy, and Aristotle in zoology,—his work on the Cephalopods was not outgrown half a century ago. But in the main the Greek was too much of an artist to have a genuine love of truth as truth in all its forms. If his great classics are consummate works of art, he was in his best days too full of national pride to let even the idea of universal history dawn on him—that the beliefs and struggles of uncouth barbarian tribes are not without a meaning and a value for the order of history. If his feeling of order and beauty in the world has never been surpassed, so much the harder did he find it to overcome his dislike of things ungraceful or ugly, and to see that the most repulsive of them have their place and value even for the order and beauty which he loved. Again, his admiration of man was rather aesthetic than moral. It was rather of outside things like mind and beauty than of man as man, and therefore as will. For this reason he never reached any true respect for his neighbour's rights; so that when once his political system was thoroughly disordered there was nothing to check the violence of faction till Rome broke in to stop the civil strife and bloodshed. In a word, he was too one-sidedly artistic to see the unity of life and truth. He could follow truth (no man better) in philosophy or in geometry; but what had truth to do with religion? The æsthetic cry (never louder than in our own time) is always, If the legend, the doctrine, the ceremony, is beautiful, it is none the worse for being false or teaching falsehood. And with the divorce of truth from religion went its divorce from practical life. The “medicinal lie” in Plato is terribly significant, even if it shews rather contempt of concrete facts than real disregard of truth. At any rate it shews how little truth was understood to cover deed and word as well as thought. So, too, the Greek in his shrinking from things ugly seldom fairly faced the fact of sin. It might arise from ignorance or sense or madness; but sin as sin was a fact he did not often care to reckon with. The mysteries and the Eastern worships dealt with it in their several ways, but divine Philosophy came and looked on it and passed by on the other side. The Greek made life a Euxine Sea: if it was too rough, he called it smooth. It was for want of courage to make truth cover the whole of life that the splendour of Greek thought was dimmed by clouds of scepticism, and her glorious intellect lost itself in arid cleverness. The Greek did all that man could do by dint of intellect; but the problem of life was not to be solved till the Jew had brought his thought of holiness, the Roman his ideal of law and order, the Teuton his belief in conscience and the individual: and all these can find no unity but in the idea developed by the Christians, of a way that expresses truth, and a truth which expresses life in all its depth and all its range.

If we have found it convenient to sum up the work of Greece at this point rather than a later one, we do not mean that it was completed by Plato and Aristotle. Greece, like Rome, did much of her best work in the times men count as her decline. Epicurean and Neo-platonic and even Stoic thought were mainly Greek, and there is no break till the closing of the schools by Justinian. But Greek thought enters on a new period after Alexander, and is more coloured by foreign influence. The conquered East reacted on Greece almost as powerfully as Greece herself on Rome two or three centuries later, bringing to the surface tendencies of Greek thought which, even if found in Plato, were not otherwise conspicuous in classical times. Few of its later leaders were pure Greeks. Zeno was half a Phœnician, Philo was a Jew, Plotinus himself was of Eastern origin. Greece was now no more than a part, and hardly a bright part, of a world of Hellenistic culture stretching far beyond Marseille and Antioch. The schools of Athens were rivalled and often more than rivalled by Alexandria, Pergamus, Tarsus, Rhodes; and the distant echoes of their teaching reached the Indus. Greece had thrown open her doors to all the nations. Romans and barbarians were welcome to her culture, and even to the mysteries of Eleusis. She stood forward as the teacher of the world, making disciples first of Macedonia, then of Rome, and at last shaping even Christianity into forms of her own.

But Greece herself was no longer the Greece of old time. The civic ideals which shone so brightly for Solon and Pericles had been tarnished by the demoralizing struggle of the Peloponnesian War, and no State proved able to take up the civilizing work of Athens. Sparta brutally misused her power, and Thebes lost her one great man at Mantinea. Then came the Macedonian conquest, which only the divisions of Greece made either possible or permanent. Civic life seemed to go on as before, but it ceased to be an ideal when the city had lost its freedom. Art had no decline, luxury and refinement increased, science and literary criticism flourished, as at Alexandria; but the political side of philosophy had to be dropped. The impulse given by Socrates to the ethics of the individual now carried all before it. As his predecessors had begun by leaving out the gods from their working plans, so now his successors went on to leave out the State. A few cynics and others had left it out before; but now that the old city-states were subject to great military kingdoms there was nothing else to be done.

The loss is great and evident. The dethroning of the State was a fatal blow to the old religion based on it, and to the old moral training of civic life. The forms might survive, but their power was withering. For the next six hundred years the world was using makeshifts till it found a new religion. It was easy enough to manufacture gods, but very little religion encircled Antigonus or Demetrius, and such loyalty as gathered round them was Macedonian, not Greek. Cæsar stood on a higher level, as the incarnation of the glory of the world and Rome, and sometimes commanded real devotion, though perhaps the men who kept the image of Marcus among their household gods in Constantine's time gave their worship to the saint rather than the emperor. But Cæsar-worship never lost a taint of political expediency, and never became a genuine world-religion. The mysteries and the Eastern worships made a real advance in so far as they held out a promise of life after death, and may in some cases have had a good moral influence; but the amount of quackery and unreason mixed up with them made them impossible as a permanent religion. So philosophy was forced to undertake the work of religion as well as its own. Small blame to it if it proved a poor makeshift. However clearly it might speak, it lacked authority. The will of the immortal gods was a commanding motive, and appealed to common men; but even the philosopher could hardly respect in the same way the opinions of his fellows.

Nor was philosophy any longer a fearless and thorough search for truth in all its range. Disputers and parasites dressed out in the philosopher's cloak were scandal enough; but there was a deeper evil. The man of science, whose province is phenomena, is blameless if he takes his first principles at second-hand, provided he knows what he is doing: not so the philosopher, who has no right to take anything whatever as a first principle if he can get behind it. But now the philosophers were content to assume that their first principles of ethics were sufficiently proved by the average opinion of the nations around them. They simplified their task, for nothing now remained but to shew how the individual was to work out these principles in private life. But they mutilated philosophy. One part of the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle had nothing to represent it in that of Stoics and Epicureans; and unfortunately there was no possibility of thorough work without the missing part.

Greece as a whole was declining from the time of Cyrus to the Roman conquest, though the decline is masked by the dazzling splendour of Athens in the fifth century. It was very plain after the fall of Athens. The Peace of Antalcidas was even more shameful to Greece than Xenophon's retreat had been to Persia; and after the Macedonian conquest anyone could see that Greece was perishing for lack of men. The great armies of Pausanias and Archidamus were things of the past; and even the twenty thousand who repulsed the Gauls in 280 were half of them Aetolians. Now, a great and continuous decline of population is always the visible summing-up of a vast amount of moral or social unsoundness. There can be neither denial of the fact nor doubt of its meaning. Not only the State was in danger, but the very existence of the community was threatened. With the darkening outlook came a darker view of life. The word might still be, Let us eat and drink; but there was a new tone of sadness in the answer, For tomorrow we die. It was as if the cupboard were opened at the feast to shew the skeleton. As death loomed larger, life grew poorer. Was it worth so much after all? So for the first time asceticism became a serious factor of Greek thought. There had always been traces of it, but now it became conspicuous, as in the constant endeavour of the Stoics to spew that the good and evil things of life are of no consequence to the wise man—which they could easily do by stripping them of their associations and refusing to look at anything more than their barest elements.

Nevertheless, the change was not pure loss. If the city-state was fallen, the individual remained; and if the great empires were artificial formations, mankind at any rate must be a natural whole. The Macedonian and Roman conquests did for the philosophers what the Assyrian invasions had done for the prophets, and the Chaldæan for Israel generally, by forcing them to look both inside and outside the old fences of national division,—inward on man as man, and outward for the first time on mankind as a unity. Something surely was gained when the teaching of history compelled them to reconsider the old dualism of spirit and matter, and the old preferences of speculation to practical life, and of the city to the citizen. Even if the city-state was the highest form of society, other forms also might have their advantages; and trial could hardly be made of them till the individuals who constituted it had been isolated for closer study, and recombined in a larger whole.

Epicureans and Sceptics will not detain us, for they contributed very little directly to the conception of the knowledge of God. The Epicureans only softened the crude Hedonism of the Cyrenaics, and continued the old Greek search for the summum bonum in pleasure, while the function of the Sceptics was purely critical. It is otherwise with the Stoics. As the Epicureans went back to the atoms of Leucippus and Democritus, the Stoics returned to the primal fire of Heraclitus for the origin on one side of things that run their course and in the end return to it again, and on the other of those principles of unity in all things which reach their highest form in human reason, which is the image of the divine. True, everything that exists is material; but everything material is also spiritual, for spirit and matter are not two things, but two aspects of one thing. But if man's true self is a part of the divine, it follows with the Cynics that such true self is the highest object of his care; but it does not follow with the Cynics that it is best cared for by trampling down everything else. If the divine of which it is a part be the principle of order in the universe, it follows that true care of self consists not in setting at defiance the customs of society, but in following the order of the universe. Indeed, if self is fulfilled in relations to the universe, the rule of self and the rule of the universe must coincide. That which is reason in the individual is reason in other men, and the principle of order in the universe. Hence we have on one side the proud self-consciousness of the Stoic, on the other his wide human sympathy. He has reached the idea, first that there is a universal law, and then that the duty of following it is universal. In this he contrasts with earlier philosophers, who scarcely pretended to speak to more than the select few. To the Stoic duty was as imperative to barbarians as to Greeks, though only the wise man fully recognized it. Further, this law was not an external command. It was expressed in the moral sense of mankind, and truly echoed in the wise man's heart, so that he found true freedom in serving it. However the world might go astray, the wise man was independent, and could always go his own way. If the struggle was after all too hard for him, suicide was a ready escape. “The door was open.”

The Stoics had made a discovery when they identified reason in man with the principle of order in the world; and, like most discoverers, they seemed to think that their discovery explained everything. They reasoned as if the ideal was the actual, and made no compromises. They recognized no partial knowledge or partial virtue. They saw no continuity in character, but treated every act as an isolated decision. They allowed nothing for impulse and instinct, but judged every act as the result of deliberate reflection. Every act of the wise man was virtue, no act of the natural man. They laid down their principles, and carried them out without regard to consequences. Hence the pedantic and impracticable conscience which was the laughing-stock of the profane. Like the Puritan, the Stoic stood for seriousness in a frivolous world; and like the Puritan, he made himself ridiculous. Conscience first, said the Stoic; and the Christian agrees with him. Conscience last, says the ungodly; and the ungodly is to this extent right, that the secondary authorities of custom, opinion, etc. are not lightly to be set at defiance. The only plea the final court will accept is that justice has miscarried in the courts below. The Stoics turned trifles into matters of conscience, and slighted the legitimate authority of custom.

But hence also the lofty sense of duty which made Stoicism the worthiest representative of religion in the age of Roman civil wars. It was a mixture of conscience and republican pedantry which put it in opposition to the Empire—an opposition which ceased when the Empire shewed a more legal and constitutional spirit after Domitian's time. In the second century it was much more of a republic than is commonly allowed, for the emperors (except Hadrian in his last illness) were largely guided by the senate. So Marcus was not very far out of his place as a Stoic on the throne.

The Stoic's conception of what we may call the knowledge of God was clear on two points. He recognized a principle of reason in the universe, and the same principle of reason in the duty of man. The self-consistency preached by Zeno was defined by his next successor, Cleanthes, as consistency with the nature of things. Put having reached this illuminating thought, he was quite unable to work it out. It had to remain matter of faith. He presumed that the world is according to reason, but he entirely failed to shew that any of the things in the world are according to reason. Judaism, Christianity, and even Islam all have eschatologies which (if true) shew that some of them at least are according to reason; but Stoicism is as helpless as the old polytheism. If the history of the world returns in cycles, it can have no such external purpose as is needed to give a rational meaning to the things of time. The later Stoics might drop the physical side of the philosophy, but still there was no ray of light on the thick darkness of the Whence and Whither. True, they have a general idea that good fortune, and still more bad fortune, is material for training; and this is a real advance; but they make it useless by subordinating it to their general doctrine of the essential indifference of outward things. We get clearly back to the ground of ignorance when the self is defined without regard to the relations of life which constitute its definition. Even more than the Christian, the Stoic walked by faith and not by sight. He had the same faith that the things of the world, the wilfulness of men excepted, are according to reason; but he never could render a reason for his faith—he had no doctrine of a risen Saviour to give him assurance full and final that so indeed they are.

The Stoic then began in faith that the divine is immanent in the world; but he so utterly failed to make his faith reasonable that we are not surprised to find the next great movements of thought swinging round to a purely transcendental God. They were the same in Greece and Israel; with Philo in spite of his Judaism, with Plotinus unreservedly, with the Christians in spite of the Gospel. Everywhere the degradation of the State from an ideal to a police was slowly forcing in on men the belief that the divine must be too great and distant for us to know it—at least directly, for in one direction the Stoics had struck out a line of thought which the transcendentalists who followed them found helpful. The conception of a Logos or immanent reason in the world was not meant by the Stoics themselves to be more than an assertion of divine activity. But when the transcendentalist wave of thought swept over the world, it was felt that a God so distant and so high could not be supposed himself to touch the things of time, but needed a mediator. Such a mediator was supplied by the Stoic idea of a Logos or immanent Reason. But what was this Logos? Was it divine? and if so, in what sense? Was it personal or impersonal? This was the problem of the next age; and we shall see that Philosophy broke down before it, and Christianity itself could find no solution till the purely transcendental conception of the divine was abandoned at the Council of Nicæa.

  • 1.

    Schräder, Prehistoric Antiquities, 414 (trans. Jevons), counts these “phonetically safe.”

  • 2.

    Ign. Eph. 20.

  • 3.

    Rom. ii 7.

  • 4.

    Tegner's Frithiof Saga is essentially a Christian poem, notwithstanding its heathen dress. Nothing can be more unlike the general spirit of the North than its attitude towards magic. Frithiof cuts tip his magic ring in lie storm at sea, runs his magic ship ashore when he comes to King Ring, and in the hour of sore temptation flings away his magic sword. When all this is clone he stands out in his true greatness, simply as a man. Such, I take it, is meant to be the moral of the poem.

  • 5.

    Apoc. ii 13.