means simply ?divine service,? or service offered to Heaven and Earth, or to spirits of any kind, good or bad. There are many gods, a Queen of Heaven, King of Hades, God of War, god of literature, gods of the hills, valleys, streams, a goddess of smallpox, of childbearing, and all the various trades have their gods. The loftiest expression the Chinese have is ?Heaven,? or ?Supreme Heaven,? or ?Azure Heaven.? This is the surviving indication that in the most remote times they had knowledge of one supreme, intelligent and personal Power who ruled over all.? Mr. Yugoro Chiba has shown that the Chinese classics permit sacrifice by all the people. But it still remains true that sacrifice to ?Supreme Heaven? is practically confined to the Emperor, who like the Jewish high priest offers for his people once a year.
Confucius did nothing to put morality upon a religious basis. In practice, the relations between man and man are the only relations considered. Benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom, sincerity, are enjoined, but not a word is said with regard to man?s relations to God. Love to God is not only not commanded ? it is not thought of as possible. Though man?s being is theoretically an ordinance of God, man is practically a law to himself. The first commandment of Confucius is that of filial piety. But this includes worship of dead ancestors, and is so exaggerated as to bury from sight the related duties of husband to wife and of parent to child. Confucius made it the duty of a son to slay his father?s murderer, just as Moses insisted on a strictly retaliatory penalty for bloodshed; see J. A. Farrer, Primitive Manners and Customs, 80. He treated invisible and superior beings with respect, but held them at a distance. He recognized the ? Heaven? of tradition; but, instead of adding to our knowledge of it, he stifled inquiry. Dr. Legge: ?I have been reading Chinese books for more than forty years, and any general requirement to love God, or the mention of any one as actually loving him, has yet to come for the first time under my eye.?
Ezra Abbot asserts that Confucius gave the golden rule in positive as well as negative form; see Harris, Philos. Basis of Theism, 222. This however seems to be denied by Dr. Legge, Religions of China, 1-58. Wu Ting Fang, former Chinese minister to Washington, assents to the statement that Confucius gave the golden rule only in its negative form, and he says this difference is the difference between a passive and an aggressive civilization, which last is therefore dominant. The golden rule, as Confucius gives it, is: ?Do not unto others that which you would not they should do unto you.? Compare with this, Isocrates: ?Be to your parents what you would have your children be to you? Do not to others the things which make you angry when others do them to you?; Herodotus: ?What I punish in another man, I will myself, as far as I can, refrain
<- Previous Table of Contents Next ->
Was this article helpful?