« ZurückWeiter »
every where such concord and unanimity, that the whole kingdom seemed as if it were but one great family,
The neighbouring princes began to be jealous. They easily 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 ineffectual : there was nothing to be done : the severity of the philosopher, was obliged to give way to the overbearing fashion 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. 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.
his liš interested philosopf this teni Ives into re happi cius tob 78, fando
The Chinese offering perfumes, &c. to their Deity.
not exclude myself from the society of men, and consort with beasts. Bad as the times are, I shall do all I can to recall men to virtue ; for in virtue are all things, and, if mankind would but once embrace it, and submit themselves to its discipline and laws, they would not want me or any body else to instruct them. It is the duty of a good man, first to perfect himself, and then to perfect others. Human nature," he ad
came to us from heaven pure and perfect; but in process of time, ignorance, the passions, and evil examples corrupted it. All consists in restoring it to its primitive beauty ; and to be perfect, we must reascend to that point from which we have fallen. Obey heaven, and follow the orders of him who governs it. Love your neighbour as yourself. Let your reason, and not your senses, be the rule of your conduct ; for reason will teach you to think wisely, to speak prudently, and to behave yourself worthily upon all occasions."
Confucius in the mean time, though he had withdrawn himself from kings and palaces, did not cease to travel about, and do what good he could among the people, and among mankind in general.
He is said to have had at least 3000 disciples ; 72 of whom were distinguished above the rest by their superior attainments, and 10 above them all by their comprehensive view and perfect kilowledge of his whole philosophy and doctrines. He divided his disciples into four classes, who applied themselves to cultivate and propagate his philosophy, each according to his particular distinction. The first class were to improve their minds by meditation, and to purify their hearts by virtue. The second were to cultivate the arts of reasoning justly, and of composing elegant and persuasive discourses. The study of the third class was, to learn the rules of good government, to give an idea of it to the mandarins, and to enable them to fill the public offices with honour. The last class was concerned in delivering the principles of morality in a concise and polished style to the people. These 10 chosen disciples were, as it were, the flower of Confucius' school.
He sent 600 of his disciples into different parts of the empire, to reform the manners of the people ; and, not satisfied with benefiting his own country only, he made frequent resolutions to pass the seas, and propagate his doctrine to the farthest parts of the world. Hardly any thing can be added to the purity of his morality. He seems rather to speak like a doctor of a revealed law, than a man who had no light but what the law of nature afforded him : and, as an evidence of his sincerity, he taught as forcibly hy example as by precept. In
short, his gravity and sobriety, his rigorous abstinence, his contempt of riches, and what are commonly called the goods of this life, his continual attention and watchfulness over his actions, and, above all, that modesty and humility which are not to be found among the Grecian sages. He is said to have lived secretly three years, and to have spent the latter part of his life in sorrow. A few days before his last illness, he told his disciples with tears in his eyes, that he was overcome with griet at the sight of the disorders which prevailed in the empire : “ The mountain,” said he, “is fallen, the high machine is demolished, and the sages are all fled.” His meaning was, that the edifice of perfection, which he had endeavoured to raise was entirely overthrown. He began to languish from that time ; and the 7th day before his death, he said, “ The kings reject my maxims ; and since I am no longer useful on the earth, I may as well leave it.” After these words he fell into a lethargy, and at the end of seven days expired in the arms of his disciples, in his 730 year. Upon che first hearing of his death, Ngai cong, who then reigned in the kingdom of Lou, could not refrain from tears : Tien is not satisfied with me,” cried he, “ since it has taken away my Confucius.” Confucius was lamented by the whole empire, which from that very moment began to honour him as a saint; and established such a veneration for his memory, as will probably last for ever in those parts of the world. Kings have built palaces for him in all the provinces, whither the learned go at certain times to pay him homage. There are to be seen upon several edifices, raised in honour of him, inscriptions in large characters, "To the great master." " To the head doctor." " To the saint." " To the teacher of emperors and kings.” They built his sepulchre near the city Kio fou, on the banks of the river Su, where he was wont to assemble his disciples ; and they have since inclosed it with walls, which look like a small city to this day.
Confucius did not trust altogether to the memory of his disciples for the preservation of his philosophy ; but composed several books : and though these books were greatly admired for the doctrines they contained, and the fine principles of morality they taught, yet such was the unparalleled modesty of this philosopher, that he never assumed the least honour about them. He ingenuously confessed, that the doctrine was not his own, but was much more ancient; and that he had done nothing more than collect it from those wise translators Yao and Chun, who lived 1500 years before him. These books are held in the highest esteem and veneration, because they contain all that he had collected relating to the ancient