E. E G..

The makers of Hellas: a critical inquiry into the philosophy and religion of ancient Greece online

. (page 98 of 112)
Online LibraryE. E G.The makers of Hellas: a critical inquiry into the philosophy and religion of ancient Greece → online text (page 98 of 112)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

perfect and unique character first as Ruler of Men, and then as the Pattern
Man — file Son of Man. Do we not recognise this union of high spirit and
gentleness as at once the rarest and the most precious of human qualities, as a
something best set forth by the aides of Homer ?

4. Then, again, was Christ's claim to be the Guardian of Men substantiated
by any proof of discernment in Him ? Did He know friends from foes, true
from false, those of the household from those that are without?

To this there can be but one answer — He that spake as never man spake
knew also as never man knew. Look at that wondrous picture of the woman
taken in sin, and brought to Him for judgment by those whose zeal for right-
eousness is such that they will be satisfied with nothing less than the death of
the offender. Is the Christ deceived ? If the woman kneeling in agony in the
midst is not as yet of His household, neither in His judgment are her accusers.
Listen to His words: "He that is without sin among you, let him cast the
first stone at her." And the result? " They all went out beginning with the
eldest even unto the youngest " — being convicted of their own conscience.

Such instances, as we know, can be multiplied at pleasure. He " knew
what was in man," therefore He would not commit Himself to men. He was
deceived neither by their apparent devotion when they would come by " force
and make Him a king" — nor by apparent deference to His opinion. "Why
tempt ye Me, ye hypocrites ? Show Me the tribute-money." Well may the
apostle take Christ's knowledge of men as one of the very bases of His Church.
" The foundation of the Lord stand eth sure, having this seal : the Lord knoiveth
them that are His." And Christ Himself makes His knowledge of men the
very basis of the final judgment which as Ruler of Men He shall pass : " Many
will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name,


and in Thy name done many wondrous works ? Then will I profess unto them
I never Imew you. Depart from Me, all ye that work iniquity."

5. Was Christ a philosopher ? can only be answered when we have considered
what Plato's ideal of the philosopher was. The consideration of Plato's next and
all-embracing qualification, viz. that a guardian must be a philosopher — we
shall, for the reasons before mentioned, consider apart.

The consideration of Plato's next and all-embracing qualification, viz.
that a guardian must be a philosopher, we must consider apart, not only
because of its comprehensiveness, but because Plato himself suddenly alters
his plan in the third book, and divides his guardians into two classes : (i) those
of whom we have been speaking, the watchers and defenders against enemies
whom he now calls allies of the guardians, and (2) the legislators, or guardians
proper, the philosophers, who are the real rulers of his ideal state.

To complete his description of the defenders, however, he adds two other
characteristics which we must briefly note : —

6. Love for the State. — The best guardian or watcher will be the man who
is best fitted for the duty of watching. He must therefore not only possess
wisdom and strength, but he must care for the state, make its interests his own.

Now that we have seen what Plato wished his guardians to be by nature,
we may pass on and discover with him the principles on which they were to
be selected and appointed (412 C. et seq. ; 413 0. et seq.). These qualities
which we have just noted — manliness, high spirit, gentleness, discernment,
love of knowlege — may be born in a man, but they do not in themselves make
him a good guardian, i.e. a watcher for others. He may use them, one and all,
for his own interests. Before our guardian can be appointed, then, we must
make very sure concerning two things — first, that he has that one quality
which beyond all others makes a good watcher ; and then, secondly, that he
shall possess that other quality which guarantees the stability of the first.

What, then, is the one supreme quality in a watcher ? Is it not that he
shall identify himself and his interests with the thing which he has to watch ?

The best guardian, says Plato, is the man who is most of a icatcher {i.e.
who is wrapped up, heart and soul, in the task). The watcher of the state,
therefore, must not only possess wisdom and strength, he must actually care
FOR the state. A man, he continues, will care most for what he loves, and he
would probably love most that which is benefited by what benefits himself,
and of which he might think that when it fared well, his own welfare would
be assured, that when reverses came to it, he himself would suffer. He there-
fore will make the best guardian who has been observed all his life through to
do with zeal what he considered to be for the benefit of the state, and not
even to wish to act in any way contrary to that.

That the state is first, the individual second ; that the interests of the
individual are bound up with those of the state — this is to be the guiding
principle of the ruler, and no one is to be chosen who has not given evidence
that he has taken it for his rule of life.

Later on, in the sixth book (502 E.), Plato sums up all this in the one
stipulation that the guardian must be a patriot — a philopoUs — lover of the


Can we venture to say of Jesus Christ that He was a philopoUs in this
sense— that He put His state first. Himself second ; that He considered His
own interests as bound up with those of His people? Nay, ought we not
rather to ask. Of whom could such a principle be afiirmed with greater truth
than of Christ ? Does He not lay it down as the distinction between the Good
Shepherd and the hireling that the hireling fleeth because he is an hireling,


and careth not for the sheep. The hireling, whose own the sheep are not,
seeth the wolf coming and leaveth the sheep. I The Good Shepherd, on the
contrary, remains on the spot because his interests are bound up with the
safety of His flock. They are " his own " — what benefits them will benefit
him, what injures them will injure him. But, of course, here the parallel
fails. We see that the principle of self-interest which in antiquity, far more
than in modern life, was inseparably bound up with patriotism, falls far short
of the truth here. To watch and work for the best interests of the state was
in ancient days not only for the ruler, but for the private citizen, part of the
doctrine of self-preservation. When the state prospered, the individual was
free ; when it fell, he was enslaved. The principle of self-interest, therefore,
necessarily predominates in Plato's ideal of "caring for" the state. In what
sense, however, can self-interest be said to actuate Christ as a Ruler — as the
Good Shepherd ? Simply in that highest and most beautiful sense in which
the self ceases to be self-centred, widens out, and perpetuates itself in others.

Ask the father why he watches and toils and struggles to give his son the
best possible start in life — ask the mother why she watches and waits unresting
day and night by the bed of her sick child — and they will tell you that it is
because what they are watching and working for is infinitely precious ; their
own interests have passed over into a new self, and self-interest has taken a
new name, even the most unselfish name of love. And is not this the trans-
formation which the Christ has wrought in the ideal of the shepherd and ruler
of the people ? Is He not Himself the Father of the flock which He purchased
with His own blood ? Are not its members " the members of His body, of
His flesh, and of His bones " ? ^

To sum up, we may boldly say that Jesus was not only a pMlopolis, a
lover of His own State, the Church, but a pliilopairis^ a lover of that state into
which He entered when He condescended to take human flesh. He was a true
patriot in the natural as in the spiritual sense of the term ; He loved the little
country of His birth with a depth of affection that will only find relief in
tears ; and He loved the greater country of the whole inhabited Kosmos — no
man therein who is not His brother. " Go ye out into all nations," and win
them for Me, is His last command. He will have all men to be saved — to
come, that is, under the shadow of His wings, within the embrace of His
love. Philopolis, philojpatris — Patriot beyond all others — is the Guardian of
Guardians, Jesus Christ.

Nature of the Lover of Wisdom. — After defining those to whom the

name of " Lover of Wisdom " {pliilosoplws) is to be given, Plato proceeds to
sum up the qualities which must exist in him by nature, in order that he may
really be a partaker of true being ; and first and foremost among these quali-
ties he places —

I. Love of Truth. — The true lover of wisdom, he says {Rep., vi. 485), does
not willingly admit a lie into his mind ; he hates it, and loves the truth.

That is likely to be the case, says Glaucon.

Not only likely, my friend, retorts Socrates warmly, but necessarily it will
be the case, for the man who loves anything by nature must love all that is
akin and related to the object of his affections.

Right !

And could you find anything more akin to wisdom than truth ?

How could I ? said he.

Then can the same nature be wisdom-loving and deceit-loving ?

Impossible !

^ St. John X. 12, 13. - Ephesians v. 30.


Therefore, he that is truly a lover of learning must from his very youth,
so far as he possibly can, strive after all truth ?
Certainly !

2. Then, this concentration of the mind on the pursuit of truth, brings
another quality in its train, viz. soundness of mind or temperance (sophrosyiie).

We know (by experience), says Socrates, that he whose desires are strongly
directed towards one thing will have them weaker in other directions, as in the
case of a stream directed into another channel.

Of course.

He, then, whose desires are directed towards knowledge and everything
connected with it, will, I think — if he be a true lover of wisdom, and not a
mere pretender — be absorbed in the pleasures of the soul, and find no place for
those of the body.

That is most necessary.

Then, says Socrates, such an one will be of sound mind = temperate

3. And being temperate, he will be in no way a lover of money, for those
things on account of which money is eagerly sought for at great sacrifice, may
be sought for by any other rather than by him (i.e. they are things absolutely
out of harmony with the character of the true lover of wisdom).

That is true.

4. And there is another quality which we must take into account when we
are deciding whether any one has the nature of a lover of wisdom, or not.

What is that ?

There must be in him no secret illiherality . A mean spirit is totally
opposed to the spirit whose striving is ever directed towards the whole of
things, divine and human.

That is most true, said he.

Do you suppose that he who has magnificence of mind and who contemplates
all time and all existence, will think much of human life ?

Impossible, he rejoined.

5. Death, therefore, will not be terrible to such an one ?
Not at all.

The cowardly and mean nature, then, can have no share in true philosophy?
I should say not.

6. What then? The soul arrayed in the beauty of order (kosmios) — the
soul that is not covetous, or mean, or boastful, or cowardly — can it in any sense
become hard in its dealings with others, or unjust ?

It can not.

By this test then you may examine the wisdom-loving soul — not confining
your examination to its youthful days — by noting whether it is just and mild,
or unsociable and rude.


7 . Nor must we, I think, overlook another point.
What is that?

Whether our candidate learns readily or with difficulty. Do you expect
that any one will love adequately anything that he does with pain, and in
which after toil and trouble he makes little progress ?


And again, if he is full of forgetfulness, and unable to retain anything of
what he learns, will he not be empty of knowledge.

How can it be otherwise ?


And labouring thus in vain, will he not be compelled at last to hate both
himself and his fruitless occupation ?

How should he not ?

A forgetful soul, then, we cannot admit among the true lovers of wisdom,
but must seek those gifted with a good memory.


8. And shall we not maintain that the inharmonious and unseemly nature
can only tend towards disproportion ?


And do you believe truth to be akin to proportion or to disproportion ?

To proportion ?

In addition to the other qualities, then, we must seek for a justly-propor-
tioned and gracious mind which, of its own inborn nature, shall incline towards
the true being of everything.


What then ? Do we not seem to you to have enumerated all the qualities
that, in a manner, hang together and are necessary to the soul which is to pai'ti-
cipate, fully and perfectly, in true being ?

These are certainly the most necessary, said he.

And can you find fault with a pursuit (philosophy) in which he alone can
engage who is by nature endowed with a good memory, quick to learn, of noble
and magnificent, gracious mind, the friend and kinsman of truth, justice,
courage, temperance ?

Momus himself (the personification of blame), said he, could find no fault
with such a pursuit.

Then, said I, is it not to such as these, and these only, when perfected by
years and education, that you will entrust the state ?

[The comments on the first three qualifications of the ruler were planned,
but not written. — Ed.]

"When we come to the next (or fourth) qualification of the Ruler — we are
for the moment staggered. Magnificence ! Can the word in any way be pre-
dicted of the lowly Carpenter of Nazareth ? Yea, verily — in all aspects of His
character magnificence is the only word which can be used of Him with pro-
priety, for this word ^^ megaloprepeia,^^ generally rendered by " magnificence,"
means in its trueness, simply " befitting greatness."

Whether we take it in its etymological significance, however, or in its
secondary and ordinary meaning, the mind of Jesus Christ, with reverence be
it said, will stand the test. He was magnificent as no mortal man ever was,
before or since. Let us venture to measure His earthly manifestation by
Plato's standard.

(a) Magnificence in giving. — Where do you find a " secret corner of
illiberality " in Him ? When Jesus Christ gives. He gives as the Giver of the
sunshine and the rain from heaven. Think of the wine at the marriage feast
— the ample, bounteous store far and away beyond the needs on the surface of
the occasion that called forth the gift. Think of the feeding of the fainting
multitudes. When Jesus Christ feeds. He feeds not by ones and twos, or even
by hundreds — but by thousands. All are satisfied, and a surplus is left. The
disciples cast the nets at His bidding — they draw them in, full to overflowing.
It seems as though He who said, " It is more blessed to give than to receive,"
resented the restraint which He imposed upon Himself in the matter of giving
— as though HiSj Divine bounty on the occasions when He allowed it play,
welled over in the very delight — the " blessedness " of giving.

{h) Magnificence in receiving. — Our Lord has this other characteristic of a


truly " great " mind — He can recognise and appreciate greatness in others. He
who knows the blessedness of " giving " allows that joy to others as well as to
Himself. When His disciples rebuked the " waste " of the ointment poured
upon His sacred body, they doubtless expected to be commended by Him who
had said, " Gather up the fragments that remain that nothing be lost." Not
so ! Christ can exercise a wise economy, but He can be " magnificent." Be-
hind the " waste " He perceives the priceless treasure of a magnificent impulse
— it is the devotion of a heart nigh to breaking with its weight of gratitude
that finds vent in the fragrance of the spices, and the Master accepts the costly
sacrifice, as He had accepted the silent homage of the poor woman who washed
His feet with her tears and dried them with her hair — the deepest and most
lowly tribute ever paid by impurity to purity in all the magnificence of its
lustre. Christ is magnificent also in this, that He measures m^n by motives,
not by acts — the two mites of the widow outweighed in His esteem the treasures
of the wealthiest because of the magnificence of the motive that prompted
and accompanied the gift — the dedication of the soul and body, the all of the
giver. Yes, Jesus Christ is princely in His magnificence, both as Giver and

(c) Then, finally, is He magnificent in Plato's ultimate and most real sense ?
Does He "think much of human life" and its interests, or is He magnificent
in mind — absorbed in great and lofty aims, " contemplating all time and all
existence " ?

Who ever surpassed Jesus Christ in the magnificence of His plans and
aims? How absolutely insignificant — how contracted has the ideal state of
Plato himself become, when contrasted with that Kingdom of God which Christ
came to found !

Think of the scheme and its originator — a Syrian peasant building up in
imagination a kingdom which is to fill the world, a kingdom against which the
gates of Hades and of death shall not prevail — a kingdom which literally is to
embrace " all time and all existence."

Think of the means by which the kingdom is to develop. No external
power, whether of pomp, or grandeur, or the sword, or favour of the great of
the earth, is to have share in the enterprise. The kingdom is to grow as nature
herself grows, from within — not from without — by sheer internal force.

Truly in the magnificent simplicity of the means to be employed the scheme
betrays the Master-mind.

Then, finally, think of the end — the picture of the Founder of the Kingdom
as Judge — the throne set — the attendant angels— all nations gathered before
Him to hear their final doom — the separation of just and unjust, accomplished
by the insight of the Judge as easily as the separation of sheep from goats by
the shepherd.

Why did not His hearers resent these pictures of the last judgment and
the statement of the speaker, their fellow-man apparently, that He was to be
arbiter of their eternal destiny ? Simply because the whole picture was in
harmony with the character and life of the speaker. His hearers felt instinc-
tively that the sifting and the separating had begun already with the appear-
ance of the Founder. Each knew in his heart that the witness of John the
Baptist was true. '' There stand eth one among you whom ye know not. He
it is who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am
not worthy to unloose."

Yes— think of all this, and we shall cease to ask whether Jesus Christ was
''magnificent" or not. In His giving and taking. His plans, schemes, aims,
Jesus Christ stands out with simplicity and dignity of the one truly " magni-


ficent mind " that has always acted, spoke, and thought as " befitted

Definition of the Philosopher.— The very first quality which Plato
requires in the philosopher who would be guardian or ruler is, that he shall
have eyes.

About this, he says, there can be no doubt. We need, not a blind man,
but one who has keen sight, to keep guard over anything. And this being so,
what about keeping watch over the laws of the State ? How do they differ
from the blind — those men who in reality have no knowledge of the true being
of each thing, and have no clear pattern in their own souls, and are not able
to follow the example of the painter — to direct their gaze to absolute truth, to
refer constantly to that, and behold it as exactly as possible, that they may
order the laws here concerning the beautiful and the just and the good, if it is
necessary to make new laws, and may watch over and preserve those already
in existence?

Is he who has not this power of vision any better as a legislator than a
blind man ? We trow not.

The final definition of the lover of wisdom-ruler, then, is that, in contra-
distinction to such as wander about vaguely in subjection to the many and
varying opinions of the hour, he shall have true spiritual insight, and shall be
able to grasp the eternal and unchanging.

Of course one of the great necessities of " the eyes " is in the matter of
judging as well as legislating.

We have already spoken of our Lord as Judge, and the feeling amongst
those who heard Him that the judgment had begun already. St. Peter's
outburst, " Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, Lord," must have had
many an echo. But let us note that Jesus Christ never asks to be acknow-
ledged on a mere impulse of the sort. His claims are of a deeper nature. He
and they appeal to the "divine element" in man — the reason. Now, has
Plato, the most reasonable of reasoners, anything to tell us about the qualifi-
cations of a judge ? He has, and most weighty is his reasoning. He says in
a famous comparison of the training of judge and physician : —

Those physicians will become most skilful who from youth up have com-
bined with the learning of their art the greatest experience of disease, and
that in the worst possible forms ; and who, moreover, are not particularly
healthy by nature, and have themselves suffered from all manner of diseases.

For, I imagine, they do not cure the body by the body — in that case, we
could not allow them ever to be or to have been ill ; but they cure the body
by the soul, which is not able if it has become and is ill, to cure anything.

But the judge governs the soul by the soul ; hence it is not allowable that
he should be trained from youth up, amid vicious souls, or should consort with
them, or pass through and commit all manner of unrighteousness in order that
he may be quick from his own experience, to form a judgment concerning the
sins of others, as in the case of the diseases of the body. But the soul must
have had no experience or contamination of evil habits in youth if, itself noble
and good, it is to judge righteous judgment healthfully. Hence, youths who
are good and honourable appear simple and are easily imposed upon by the
unjust, because they have no examples of what is in themselves, evil.

Hence, again, the judge must not be young ; he must have acquired his
knowledge of evil late, not as something at home in his own soul, but as some-
thing foreign to it, which he has studied in others through a lengthened period,
and the nature of which he has discerned by knowledge (episteme), not by
actual experience (empeiria).


Most noble indeed, responds Glaucon, will such a judge be.

Our Lord as Judg-e and Physician.— Who does not see that Our Lord
fulfils every requirement of this " most noble " judge ? Who but He among
the children of men could say to those who had every opportunity of watching
Him, "Which of you convinceth Me of sin"?i He alone was "pure and
uncontaminated from youth up." He alone would study evil as something
"foreign" to His soul, never "at home" there, and, being thus Himself
" noble and good," could " pass righteous judgment healthfully."

Then, again, look at Jesus Christ as the physician, no less than the judge,
of the soul. Is not He who Himself bare our sicknesses, and made experience
of bodily weakness and suffering in its intensest shape, best able to diagnose
the action and reaction of body and mind one upon the other, and to know
how far a poor soul is really responsible for those sins, which, as Plato tells us
in the Timxus, are caused by the influence of the body upon it? Is it not just
because of His deep personal experience of human weakness and suffering that
He is to be the Judge of human conduct? "The Father hath committed all
judgment to the Son." Why ? Because He is the Son of Man.^

2. But then, what is that second quality which ensures the stability of
this " caring for " and " love " of the state ? It is faithfulness. And how
can it be known that a man is faithful ? In no other way than by the touch-
stone of trial. The guardian must be proved as to the firmness of his resolu-
tion to do all for the good of the state ; he must be put to the test in no less
than three different ways : —

(a) Constancy against deception. — First, says Plato, from youth up, he must
be carefully observed, and set to perform those works in which he would be

Online LibraryE. E G.The makers of Hellas: a critical inquiry into the philosophy and religion of ancient Greece → online text (page 98 of 112)