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piety. He honoured bis relations ; he endeavoured in all things to imitate his grandfather, who was then alive in China, a most holy man ; and it was observable, that he never ate any thing, but he prostrated himself upon the ground, and offered it first to the supreme Lord of heaven. One day, while he was a child, he heard his grand-father fetch a deep sigh; and going up to him with many bowings and much reverence, “ May I presume,” said he,“ without losing the respect I owe you, to inquire into the occasion of your grief? perhaps you fear that your posterity should degenerate from your virtue, and dishonour you by their vices.” “What put this thought into your head, said Coum-tse to him, and where have you learnt to speak after this manner ?” “From yourself,” replied Confucius : “ I attend diligently to you every time you speak ; and I have often heard you say, that a son, who does not by his virtue support the glory of his ancestors, does not deserve to bear their name.” After his grandfather's death, he applied himself to Tcem-se, a celebrated doctor of his time, and under the direction of so great a master, soon made a surprising progress in antiquities, which he considered as the source from whence all general knowledge was to be drawn. This love for the ancients very nearly cost him bis life, when he was not more than 16 years of age. Falling into discourse, one day, about the Chinese books, with a person of high quality, who thought them obscure, and not worth the pains of searching into, " the books you despise," said Confucius, “ are full of profound knowledge, which is not to be attained but by the wise and learned ; and the people would think cheaply of them, could they comprehend them of themselves. Tbis subordination of spirits, by which the ignorant are dependant upon the knowing, is very useful, and even necessary in society. Were all families equally rich and powerful, there could not subsist any form of govern. ment: but there would happen a yet stranger disorder, if mankind were all equally knowing : every one would be for governing, and none would think themselves obliged to obey. Some time ago," added Confucius, “ an ordinary fellow made the same observation to me about the books as you have done. and, from such a one indeed, nothing better could be expected: but I wonder that you, a doctor, should thus be found speaking like one of the lowest of the people.”
At the age of 19 years, he took a wife, who brought him a son, called Pe yu. This son died at 50, but left behind him a son called Tsou-tse, who, in imitation of his grandfather, applied himself entirely to the study of wisdom, and by his
merit arrived at the highest offices of the empire. Confucius was content with his wife only, so long as she lived with him ; and never kept any concubines, as the custom of his country would have allowed him to have done, because he thought it contrary to the law of nature.
It seems, however, that he divorced her after some time, and for no other reason, say the Chinese, but that he might be free from all incumbrances and connexions, and at liberty to propagate his philosophy throughout the empire. At the age of 23, when he had gained a considerable knowledge of antiquities, and acquainted himself with the laws and customs of his country he began to project a scheme for a general re. formation. All the petty kingdoms of the empire now depended upon the emperor; but every province was a distinct kingdom; which had its particular laws, and was governed by a prince of its own. Hence it often happened that the imperial authority was not sufficient to keep them within the bounds of their duty and allegiance ; but especially at this time, when luxury, the love of pleasure, and a general dissolution of manners, prevailed in all those little courts.
Confucius, wisely persuaded that the people could never be happy, so long as avarice, ambition, voluptuousness, and false policy reigned amongst them, 'resolved to preach up a severe morality; and accordingly he began to enforce temperance, justice, and other virtues ; to inspire a contempt of riches and outward pomp, to excite to magnanimity, and a greatness of soul, which should make men incapable of dissimulation and insincerity ; and used all the means he could think of, to redeem his countrymen from a life of pleasure to a life of reason. He was every where known, and as universally beloved. His extensive knowledge and great wisdom soon made him known : his integrity and the splendour of his virtues made him beloved. Kings were governed by his counsels, and the people reverenced him as a saint. He was offered several high offices in the magistracy, which be sometimes accepted ; but never from a motive of ambition, which he was not at all concerned to gratify, but always with a view of reforming a corrupt state, and amending mankind; for he never failed to resign those offices, as soon as he perceived that he could be no longer useful in them. · He corrected many frauds and abuses in the mercantile way, and reduced the weights and measures to their proper standard. He inculcated fidelity and candour amongst the men, and exhorted the women to chastity and a simplicity of manners. By such methods he wrought a general reformation, and established
every where such concord and unanimity, that the whole i kingdom seemed as if it were but one great family.
The neighbouring princes began to be jealous. They easi. ly perceived, that a king, under the counsels of such a man as Confucius, would quickly render himself too powerful. Alarmed at this, the king of Tsi assembled his ministers to consider of methods which might put a stop to the career of this new government ; and, after some deliberation, the following expedient was resolved upon. They got together a great number of young girls of extraordinary beauty, who had been instructed from their infancy in singing and dancing, and were perfectly mistresses of all those charms and accomplishments which might please and captivate the heart. These, under the pretext of an embassy, they presented to the king of Lou, and to the grandees of his court. The present was joyfully received, and had its desired effect. The arts of good gov. ernment were immediately neglected, and nothing was thought of but inventing new pleasures for the entertainment of the fair strangers. In short, nothing was regarded for some months but feasting, dancing, shows, &c. and the court was entirely involved in luxury and pleasure. Confucius had foreseen all this, and endeavoured to prevent it by advising the refusal of the present; and he now laboured to take off the delusion they were fallen into, and to bring them back to reason and their duty. But all his endeavours proved inef. fectual : there was nothing to be done : the severity of the philosopher, was obliged to give way to the overbearing fash. ion of the court. Upon which he immediately quitted his employment, exiling himself at the same time from his native country to try if he could find in other kingdoms, minds and dispositions more fit to relish and pursue his maxims.
He passed through the kingdoms of Tsi, Guci, and Tson, but met with insurmountable difficulties every where. He had the misfortune to live in times when rebellion, wars and tumults raged through the empire. Men had no time to listen to his philosophy. They had even less inclination to do it ; for they were ambitious, avaricious, and voluptuous. Hence he often met with ill treatment and reproachful language, and it is said that conspiracies were formed against his life ; to which may be added, that his neglect of his own interests had reduced him to the extremest poverty. Some philosophers among his contemporaries were so affected with this terrible state of things, that they had rusticated themselves into the mountains and deserts, as the only places where happiness could be found ; and would have persuaded Confucius to have followed them. But 'I am a man,' said Confucius, 'and can.