Page images

to reconcile this with the apparent existence of moral and physical evil. They endeavoured to do so by the following reasoning. What we call evil is only imperfection; and in a system compounded of parts, the imperfection of the parts taken separately is essential to the perfection of the whole. What we call physical evil is a necessary result of natural causes, and is in itself a matter of indifference: it only becomes evil to the man who uses it wrongly. Many things which are commonly regarded as evil are really beneficial; as an instance, Chrysippus cited the prevention of over-population by means of war'. Moral evil, which arises like disease from human weakness, is the necessary foil and condition of virtue. How could prudence and courage display themselves, if there were no choice to be made between good and evil; if there were no injustice and fraud to guard against and endure? In the end however all evil will be converted into good. If we sometimes see virtue unrewarded, this is because the government of the world proceeds by general laws, which, though best for the whole, necessarily involve the possibility of what seems to be individual hardship'. But this is, after all, only appearance, for good and evil lie not in feeling, but in action. He who acts fittingly is happy, and it is always in our own power to act fittingly to the circumstances in which we are placed. If in no other way, it is at least in our power to quit a world in which we are hindered from action. God has placed in our hands, as the last safeguard of our freedom,

[ocr errors]

Compare Plut. Stoic. Rep. 32, and other passages quoted by Zeller III. I. p. 1743.

* The same argument is used by Bp. Butler in the Analogy Pt. I.

ch. 7.

this highest privilege of self-removal (eŭloyos eťaywy), not to be used at random, but to save another's life, or to escape from being forced into anything degrading, or at the lowest to cut short unprofitable years. One other characteristic doctrine of the Stoics


be mentioned here. It will have been noticed that none of the above-named representatives of the school were of pure Greek birth, and that most were only connected with Greece by the Macedonian conquests. It was easy to rise from this fact to the higher doctrine which flowed naturally from their first principle, the doctrine namely that all men were members of one State, that the world is the common City of Gods and men, that all men are brethren as having the same Divine Father. Sir A. Grant has further called attention to the fact that Zeno himself and some of his most distinguished followers belonged to Semitic towns or colonies; and he suggests that the characteristic features of Stoicism, its stern morality, its deep religious earnestness, may perhaps be traced to this connexion.

There is indeed a very striking resemblance, mixed with no less striking contrasts, not only between particular sayings of individual Stoics, especially Seneca', and the language of the New Testament, but between Stoicism and Christianity in regard to their general view of the facts of the physical and moral universe. The Stoic pantheism, i.e. the doctrine of the interpenetration and transfusion of all nature by a Divine Spirit, has its Christian counterpart in St Paul's words, 'in Him we live

* Cf. the appendix on St Paul and Seneca in Bp. Lightfoot's edition of the Epistle to the Philippians.

and move and have our being,' 'of Him, through Him and to Him are all things',' and still more markedly in the language of the great Christian poet of this century:

“And I have felt
A presence which disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man :
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,

And rolls through all things?.”
This indwelling Spirit was known to the Stoics, as to the
Christians, under the name of the Logos'. He fashions

, the universe according to His own will and upholds it and governs it by His wisdom ; but His principal seat is in the highest heaven and in the heart of man. He is the Father of lights and the Father of spirits, the source of all spiritual and rational life, an ever-present inward witness, monitor, and guide to those who submit themselves to His guidance. He orders all things for our good and for the good of all this universe. To follow and to imitate Him is the perfection and happiness of man. Where, we might ask, is the inconsistency between this and Christian theology? Bp. Lightfoot* answers the question as follows: "The basis of Stoic theology is gross materialism,...the supreme God of the Stoics had no existence distinct from external nature... the different elements of the universe, such as the planetary bodies, were inferior Gods, members of the Universal Being.'

1 Acts XVII. 28, Rom. XI. 36. 2 Wordsworth Tintern Abbey. 3 See Heinze, Die Lehre vom Logos ch. 3.

Philippians p. 294 foll.

It is however only fair to remember that the views of many of the early Christians were far from clear on these points, and that individual Stoics differed much in the explanations they gave of the formulas of their system. Tertullian was as thorough-going a materialist as any Stoic or Epicurean'; and Origen thought it necessary to argue against those who interpreted the words 'Our God is a consuming fire,' "God is a spirit,' (Tvellua = breath), as implying some kind of corporeity”. I confess it seems to me that, while metaphysically it is a solecism to talk of “thinking matter,' yet practically, if the supposition is once admitted that thought itself can be somehow material, it makes little difference whether we conceive the one eternal Being, who constitutes the universe by his thought, to be absolutely incorporeal and immaterial, or to be, as the Stoics held, a pure etherial substance, generating all existence out of itself and taking it back into itself. Probably the incongruous compound 'thinking matter' resolved itself, more or less consciously, into one or other element according to the idiosyncrasy of the individual philosopher, God being regarded in the one case as self-determining Reason residing in its fiery vehicle and impelling baser matter through that instrumentality; in the other as the material universe developing itself according to necessary law. In either case, the

1 Compare De Carn. Christi c. II. Omne quod est, corpus est sui generis : nihil est incorporale, nisi quod non est (quoted with apparent agreement by the Lutheran Bp. Martensen Christian Ethics, p. 71 tr.).

? De principiis I. 1.

[ocr errors]

Stoic might say, no less than the Christian, looking forward to the cyclical conflagration, and contrasting nature with the God of nature, the mundus with the anima mundi, the passive with the active elements of the universe, 'they (i.e. all that we see in the world around) shall perish, but thou remainest; yea, all of them shall wax old as doth a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them and they shall be changed; but thou art the same and thy years shall have no end'.'

The contrast between the second view mentioned above, which gives the name of God to the material universe developing itself according to necessary law, and the Christian view, has been well expressed by St Augustine in a splendid passage of his Confessions. “Seeking to find an answer to the question “What is God,” I asked', he says, 'the earth, the sea, the air, the heaven, the sun, the moon and the stars: all gave the same answer "we are not God, but we are made by Him.” Interrogavi mundi molem de Deo meo, et respondit mihi : non ego sum, sed ipse me fecit.' I doubt however whether such a frank identification of the Deity with external nature as that supposed, is to be found in any genuine Stoic writer, and whether it is not in fact rather the limit (to speak mathematically) of Stoic materialism, than a positive doctrine taught in their schools. The world, like every other system, must have its viyeuovikov, its guiding principle; and, as the soul which guides and governs the body, though material, is still distinct from the body; so God, the guide and ruler of the world, is distinct from the world, though that too may be called divine or even God, in virtue of the divine principle pervading it.

When we are told that i Psalm 102. 26.

[ocr errors]



X. 7.

« PreviousContinue »