« AnkstesnisTęsti »
ensnared and drowned in evil. There now is barley: let it be sown and covered up; the ground being the same, and the time of sowing likewise the same, it grows rapidly up, and when the full time is come, it is all found to be ripe. Any inequalities of produce will be owing to the difference of the soil as rich or poor, the unequal nourishment afforded by the rains and dews, and to the different ways in which man has performed his business","
The inconsistencies in human conduct did not escape his observation. After showing that there is that in human nature which will sometimes make men part with life sooner than with righteousness, he goes on:-'And yet a man will accept ten thousand chung without any consideration of propriety and righteousness. What can they add to him? When he takes them, is it not that he may obtain beautiful mansions, that he may secure the services of wives and concubines, or that the poor and needy may be helped by him?' The scalpel is used here with a bold and skilful hand. The lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life are laid bare, nor does our author stop, till he has exposed the subtle workings of the delusion that the end may sanctify the means, that evil may be wrought that good may come. He pursues:-'In the former case the offered bounty was not received, though it would have saved from death, and now the emolument is taken for the sake of beautiful mansions. The bounty that would have preserved from death was not received, and the emolument is taken to get the services of wives and concubines. The bounty that would have saved from death was not received, and the emolument is taken that one's poor and needy acquaintance may be helped. Was it then not possible likewise to decline this? This is a case of what is called-"Losing the proper nature of one's mind."'
To the principle implied in the concluding sentences of this quotation Mencius most pertinaciously adheres. He will not allow that original badness can be predicated of human nature from any amount of actual wickedness. The
trees,' said he, 'of the Niû Mountain were once beautiful. Being situated, however, in the borders of a large State, they were hewn down with axes and bills;-and could they retain their beauty? Still, through the activity of the vegetative life day and night, and the nourishing influence of the
Original badness cannot be predicated from actual evil.
The actual per
fection of the
rain and dew, they were not without buds and sprouts springing forth;--but then came the cattle and goats, and browsed upon them. To these things is owing the bare and stripped appearance of the mountain, which when people see, they think it was never finely wooded. But is this the proper nature of the mountain? And so also of what properly belongs to man:-shall it be said that the mind of any man was without benevolence and righteousness? The way in which a man loses his proper goodness of mind is like the way in which the trees are denuded by axes and bills. Hewn down day after day, can the mind retain its beauty? But there is a development of its life day and night; and in the calm air of the morning, just between night and day, the mind feels in a degree the desires and aversions which are proper to humanity; but the feeling is not strong, and it is fettered and destroyed by what takes place during the day. This fettering takes place again and again; the restorative influence of the night is not sufficient to preserve the proper goodness of the mind; and when this proves insufficient for that purpose, the nature becomes not much different from that of the irrational animals, which when people see, they think that it never had those powers which I assert. But does this condition represent the feelings proper to humanity1?'
Up to this point I fail to perceive anything in Mencius's view of human nature that is contrary to the teachings of our Christian scriptures, and that may not be employed with advantage by the missionary in preaching the Gospel to the Chinese. It is far from covering what we know to be the whole duty of man, yet it is defective rather than erroneous. Deferring any consideration of this for a brief space, I now inquire whether Mencius, having an ideal of the goodness of human nature, held also that it had been and could be realised? The answer is that he did. The actual realisation he found in the sages, and he contended that it was within the reach of every individual. All things which are the same in kind,' he says, 'are like one another;-why should we doubt in regard to man, as if he were a solitary exception to this? The sage and we are the same in kind. The feet, the mouths, the eyes of the sages were not different from those of other people, neither were their minds. 'Is it so,' he was once asked, 'that all men may be Yâos
sages, and possible perfection of all.
and Shuns?' and he answered, 'It is,' adding by way of explana-
Among the sages, however, Mencius made a distinction. Yao and Shun exceeded all the rest, unless it might be Confucius. Those three never came short of, never went beyond, the law of their nature. The ideal and the actual were in them always one and the same. The others had only attained to perfection by vigorous effort and culture. Twice at least he has told us this. Yao and Shun were what they were by nature; T'ang and Wû were so by returning to natural virtue'.' The actual result, however, was the same, and therefore he could hold them all up as models to his countrymen of the style of man which they all ought to be and might be. What the compass and square were in the hands of the workman, enabling him to form perfect circles and squares, the sages, 'perfectly exhibiting the human relations,' might be to every earnest individual, enabling him to perfect himself as they were perfect 3.
Mencius's doctrine contains no acknowledgment of the universal proneness to evil. His ideal has been realised by
sages, and may be
Here we feel that the doctrine of Mencius wants an element which Revelation supplies. He knows nothing of the fact that 'by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed' (passed on, extended, &λOev) 'to all men, because all sinned.' We have our ideal as well as he; but for the living reality of it we must go back to Adam, as he was made by God in His own realised by all. image, after His likeness. In him the model is soon shattered, and we do not discover it again, till God's own Son appears in the world, made in the likeness of sinful flesh, yet without sin. While He died for our transgressions, He left us also an example, that we should walk in His steps; and as we do so, we are carried on to glory and virtue. At the same time we find a law in our members warring against the law in our minds, and bringing us into captivity to sin. However we may strive after our ideal, we do not succeed in reaching it. The more we grow in the know
2 Bk. VII. Pt. I. xxx. 1; Pt. II. xxxiii. 1.
3 Bk. IV. '
1 Bk. VI. Pt. II. ii. 1, 4, 5. Pt. I. ii. 1.
ledge of Christ, and see in Him the glory of humanity in its true estate, the greater do we feel our own distance to be from it, and that of ourselves we cannot attain to it. There is something wrong about us; we need help from without in order to become even what our nature, apart from Revelation, tells us we ought to be.
When Mencius therefore points us to Yâo, Shun, and Confucius, and says that they were perfect, we cannot accept his statement. Understanding that he is speaking of them only in the sphere of human relations, we must yet believe that in many things they came short. One of them, the greatest of the three in Mencius's estimation, Confucius, again and again confesses so of himself. He was seventy years old, he says, before he could follow what his heart desired without transgressing what was right'. It might have been possible to convince the sage that he was under a delusion in this important matter even at that advanced age; but what his language. allows is sufficient to upset Mencius's appeal to him. The image of sagely perfection is broken by it. It proves to be but a brilliant and unsubstantial phantasm of our philosopher's own imagining.
When he insists again, that every individual may become what he fancies that the sages were,-i. e. perfect, living in love, walking in righteousness, observant of propriety, approving whatsoever is good, and disapproving whatever is evil, he is pushing his doctrine beyond its proper limits; he is making a use of it of which it is not capable. It supplies a law of conduct, and I have set it forth as entitled to our highest admiration for the manner in which it does so; but law gives only the knowledge of what we are required to do; it does not give the power to do it. We have seen how when it was necessary to explain accurately his statement that the nature of man is good, Mencius defined it as meaning that 'it is constituted for the practice of that which is good.' Because it is so constituted, it follows that every man ought to practise what is good. But some disorganisation may have happened to the nature; some sad change may have come over it. The very fact that man has, in Mencius's own words, to recover his 'lost mind',' shows that the object of the constitution of the nature has not been realised. Whether he can recover it or not, therefore, is a question altogether different from that of its proper design.
In one place, indeed, Mencius has said that 'the great man is he
who does not lose his child's-heart. I can only suppose that, by that expression—the child's-heart,' he intends the ideal goodness which he affirms of our nature. But to attribute that to the child as actually existing in it is absurd. It has neither done good nor evil. It possesses the capacity for either. It will by-and-by awake to the consciousness that it ought to follow after the one and eschew the other; but when it does so,-I should rather say when he does so for the child has now emerged from a mere creature existence, and assumed the functions of a moral being, he will find that he has already given himself to inordinate affection for the objects of sense; and in the pursuit of gratification he is reckless of what must be acknowledged to be the better and nobler part, reckless also of the interest and claims of others, and glows, whenever thwarted, into passion and fury. The youth is more pliant than the man in whom the dominion of self-seeking has become ingrained as a habit; but no sooner does he become a subject of law, than he is aware of the fact that when he would do good, evil is present with him. The boy has to go in search of his 'lost heart,' as truly as the man of fourscore. Even in him there is an old man, corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,' which he has to put off.
Butler had an immense advantage over Mencius, arising from his knowledge of the truths of Revelation. Many, admiring his
Butler's advantage over Mencius, and that he does not make the same application
sermons, have yet expressed a measure of dissatisfac-
of their common depraved. That he fully admitted the fact we know.
He says elsewhere:- Mankind are represented in scripture to be in a state of ruin.' 'If mankind are corrupted and depraved in their moral character, and so are unfit for that state which Christ is gone to prepare for His disciples; and if the assistance of God's Spirit be necessary to renew their nature, in the degree requisite to their being qualified for that state; all which is implied in the express, though figurative declaration, Except a man be born of the Spirit, he cannot see the kingdom of God"!' How is it, then, that there is no mention of this in the sermons? Dissatisfaction, I have said, has been expressed on account of this silence, and it would have taken the form of more pointed utterance, and more decided condemnation, but for the awe of his great
1 Bk. IV. Pt. II. xii.
2 The Analogy of Religion, Part II. chap. i.