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cellence the fact that that he earlyate, and a
enlightened, than Christians”? Or is “the contemplation of his virtue, his zeal, his integrity, his consistency, likely to arouse the desire of Christians for something more high and heroical in religion than the present age affects”? (p. ix.)
Mr. Farrar has qualms from the very outset ; for he even there speaks of his terrible inconsistencies and failures, and almost apologises for the insertion of his life (more than half the volume) on the plea that he wishes to show the moral and political condition of the Roman world at the time; a curious subject for Sunday reading, and which plea, if admitted, would, for those capable of reading them, place Juvenal and Martial, Suetonius and Tacitus, amid the volumes of a “ Sunday Library.” Inasmuch, however, as in the next page he plucks up courage, and includes him once more among those who are to teach Christian lessons, let us see who he is who is proposed to us for Sabbath meditation.
L. Annæus Seneca, by birth a Spaniard, spent his youth and early manhood in Rome during the reign of Tiberius, who is described as a monster, but who seems to be in a fair way of being, before long, exalted as a fresh standard of moral excellence. Of his youth and early manhood we know little, beyond the fact that although of delicate health he was a diligent student, and that he early embraced the doctrines of the Stoics. He became an advocate, and distinguished himself by his genius and eloquence in pleading causes, entering in due season upon a political career. He was verging on fifty before that he emerged to occupy a conspicuous and brilliant position in the Imperial Court of Claudius. He had hardly come to the surface before he was banished to Corsica, on suspicion of an intrigue with Julia, the Emperor's niece. Mr. Farrar considers him innocent of the charge, and calls upon us to behold
“A good man struggling with the storms of fate.” For the first year of his exile his philosophy stood him in some stead. He assures his mother in brave words, that he is unshaken by adversity, and that he finds nothing hard or terrible in exile. Before three years, however, he is venting his anguish in verse as plaintive, but not as good, as Ovid's; and writes a howling appeal to an infamous favourite of Messalina, in hopes of obtaining pardon from the clemency of Claudius. Oddly enough, we are here called upon to remember that Savonarola and Cranmer recanted under torment, and by such means sought “ to quench the violence of fire.” (p. 105.) We cannot help thinking that a more appropriate parallel might be found in Sidney Smith's relegation to Foston. The English moralist at first sorely missed the Royal Institution, the Vol. 68.-No. 375.
Literary Club, Holland House, and the exchange of talkers like Rogers and Macintosh for the Trullibers of Yorkshire, much as no doubt did the Roman his public recitations, his sodalitates, “ the splendour of the Imperial court, the refined society of statesmen, and the ennobling intercourse of philosophers, when immured in the savage wastes of a rocky island and the society of boorish illiterate islanders.” With due deference to Mr. Farrar, although we do not think Sidney Smith attained a much loftier moral altitude than many surrounding Christians, we esteem his altitude higher than that of Seneca, inasmuch as, instead of giving way to effeminate grief and base flattery, he set to work to build his parsonage in the wilderness; and, with the help of Bunch and Calamity, to do his duty in the state and place to which it had pleased God to call him. Or if Mr. Farrar mislikes our parallel, we may fairly recur to the case of Victor Hugo. It will hardly be maintained that Rome was more to a Roman than Paris is to a Frenchman. We are no admirers of the religious sentiments or the political opinions of the celebrated exile. We think his conduct fantastic and overstrained, when he would not recently follow the remains of his excellent wife into a land polluted, as he deems it, by the rule of a tyrant. But what is the altitude of Seneca, when measured with that of the brilliant Frenchman ? As for Seneca's subsequent career, we most heartily agree with his biographer, that it must assume the form of an apology, and not of an eulogium. Recalled by Agrippina, the incestuous wife of the Emperor, and placed in charge of her son Nero, a hope is expressed that Seneca was ignorant of the means which she took to murder him who was her husband and uncle. We hope so too. Some singular admissions are made about the “ Quinquennium Neronis," and the laxity of training which Nero received; statements amply confirmed by Tacitus, but upon which we may not dwell. There is, again, a further charitable hope expressed, that Seneca was not privy to the murder of Britannicus; but the hope fails that he was ignorant of it afterwards, and that his connivance was not purchased by a good round sum. “Imagine,” says Mr. Farrar, “some Jewish Pharisee pronouncing an eulogy on the tenderness of Herod, and you have some picture of the consistency of Seneca” when dedicating his treatise on clemency to Nero after this murder. (p. 135.) It was speedily followed by the murder of Agrippina by her son, which Mr. Farrar confidently believes was not urged upon him by Seneca ! but which he sat down to vindicate in a letter “decorating with the graces of rhetoric and antithesis an atrocity too deep for the powers of indignation.” In due season the tyrant, after whom he had waded through rivers of blood, required him to shed his own.
He died as he had lived-talking, and Mr. Farrar regrets that posterity has lost this interesting utterance.
In this description of Seneca, we have carefully abstained from mixing up with it any of the horrible accusations preferred against him by Dion Cassius, whom Mr. Farrar terms & jealous Greekling, but whose history, in the judgment of Dr. Arnold, “in its latter part gives him an honourable place among impartial and well-informed contemporary historians.” It has been doubted how far the fragments preserved by Xiphilinus may be connected with the name of Dion, and we give Seneca the benefit of the doubt. We pass over, in like manner, the accusations preferred by Suilius, which cost him bis life, but not, as Tacitus pregnantly remarks,“ sine invidia Senece.”* How far the title of a seeker after God may be appropriate, and in what conceivable degree Seneca made any use of the truths with which he was acquainted, so as to make his life“ beautiful before God,” or in what sense or measure worth consideration he can be held up to Christians for imitation, we own we are utterly at a loss to imagine.
Our own judgment of him wonld, on most points, be the exact reverse of Mr. Farrar's. We may gladly concede him to have been possessed of several amiable qualities; with, for a Roman, a fair share of natural affection for his relatives. A confirmed valetudinarian, he was not addicted to gross sensual pleasures of the table. Such were not the sins he was inclined to. But he was a man of insatiable avarice, and consequently of the “ least erected spirit;" what he sought through life, early and late, through honour and dishonour, was
“Rem, quocunque modo rem." His god was Mammon, the Mammon of iniquity.t Ambition was also a master-passion, but not of an ennobling character, directed to virtuous and patriotic ends : it was perpetually spurring him on to become the minister of infamy, and the intimate companion and counsellor of the most degraded monsters who have polluted antiquity. When Caracalla slew his brother, he imposed upon Papinian, whose influence in Rome was great, the task of composing an apology. The noble answer of the great lawyer was, “ Longe facilius parricidium perpetrari quam defendi.” The answer cost him his life, but he held it foul shame to prefer life to dishonour. Not so Mr. Farrar's “ Seeker after God;" into the lowest depths of that infamy he did not hesitate to plunge. He wrote what his biographer terms “the guily elaborate, shameful letter," at the
* Tacitus, Annals, bk. xii. 18.
+ Epict. “Thou indeed mayest live much to thy ease and satisfaction with. philosophy, having, they say, two thousand talents.
Seneca. And a trifle to spare." London. Imag. Conv.
recital of which Thrasea Pætus rose and left the Senate, no doubt at the risk of his life, rather than stoop to listen to it.
We can well imagine many of our readers utterly at a loss to conceive what claim Seneca had to be ranked even among the most virtuous heathen. Still more would they wonder why Fathers of the Church and the Council of Trent should quote him as though he were an acknowledged Father of the Church, as Mr. Farrar reminds us. Well nigh the only claim he had was that he was “a moral declaimer,''—what St. Paul aptly terms “a sounding brass, a tinkling cymbal ;” or what St. Peter calls “a well without water, a cloud carried with a tempest, a speaker of great swelling words of vanity, who, while he promised himself liberty, was a servant of the foulest corruption.” We think Seneca's own account of himself not far from the truth: “Hæc non pro me loquor, ego enim in alto vitiorum sum. De virtute non de me loquor, et quum vitiis convicium facio inprimis meis facio ; quum potuero vivam quomodo oportet, nec me malignitas deterrebit ab optimisnec me impediet quo minus perseverem laudare vitam non quam ago sed quam agendam scio, quo minus virtutem adorem et ex intervallo ingenti reptabundus sequar.”* We do not care to reproduce the fierce censure of Lord Macaulay, which Mr. Farrar quotes. We will only add, that it would have been happy for Seneca if his consciousness of his vices had led him to exercise even that amount of care and watchfulness over himself which Thrasea Pætus and Papinian exercised, so that, after all his volumes of talk, the partial sentence of no Christian preacher, but of a heathen satirist, might not be in his case too justly applicable that he was of the number of those who
Virtutem videant intabescantque relictâ. We have still to notice the statements made by Mr. Farrar regarding Gallio, Seneca's brother. They are so extraordinary that we quote them in extenso :
“The scene in which Scripture gives us a glimpse of him has been much misunderstood, and to talk of him as careless Gallio,' or to apply the expression that he cared for none of these things' to indifference in religious matters, is entirely to misapply the spirit of the narrative. What really happened was this :- The Jews, indig. nant at the success of Paul's preaching, dragged him before the tribunal of Gallio, and accused him of introducing illegal modes of worship. When the apostle was about to defend himself, Gallio contemptuously cut him short by saying to the Jews, If in truth there were in question any act of injustice or wicked misconduct, I should naturally have tolerated your complaint. But if this is some verbal inquiry about mere technical matters of your law, look after
* De Vita Beata, c. 18.
it yourselves. I do not choose to be a judge of such matters.' With these words he drove them from his judgment seat, with exactly the same fine Roman contempt for the Jews and their religious affairs, as was subsequently expressed by Festus to the sceptical Agrippa, and as had been expressed previously by Pontius Pilate to the tumultuous Pharisees. Exulting at this discomfiture of the hated Jews, and apparently siding with Paul, the Greeks then went in a body, seized Sosthenes the leader of the Jewish synagogue, and beat him in full view of the Proconsul seated on his tribunal. This was the event at which Gallio looked on with such imperturbable disdain. What could it possibly matter to him, the great Proconsul, whether the Greeks beat a poor wretch of a Jew or not? So long as they did not make a riot, or give him any further trouble about the matter, they might beat Sosthenes or any number of Jews black and blue if it pleased them, for all he was likely to care.
“What a vivid glimpse do we here obtain, from the graphic picture of an eye-witness, of the daily life in an ancient provincial forum; how completely do we seem to catch sight for a moment of that habitual expression of contempt which curled the thin lips of a Roman aristocrat in the presence of subject natives, and especially of Jews. .... Probably the nearest opportunity which ever occurred to bring the Christian apostle into intellectual contact with the Roman philosopher, was this occasion when St. Paul was dragged as a prisoner into the presence of Seneca's elder brother. The utter contempt and indifference with which he was treated, the manner in which he was summarily cut short before he could even open his lips in his own defence, will give us a just estimate of the manner in which Seneca would have been likely to regard St. Paul. It is highly improbable that Gallio ever retained the slightest impression or memory of so every-day a circumstance as this, by which alone he is known to the world. It is possible that he had not even heard the mere name of Paul, and that, if he ever thought of him at all, it was only as a miserable, ragged, fanatical Jew, of dim eyes and diminutive stature,who had once wished to inflict upon him an harangue, and who had once come for a few moments betwixt the wind and his nobility.' He would, indeed, have been unutterably amazed if anyone had whispered to him, that well nigh the sole circumstance which would entitle him to be remembered by posterity, and the sole event of his life by which he would be at all generally known, was that momentary and accidental relation to his despised prisoner.”
Such is Mr. Farrar's version of the transaction; he can hardly mean it for a justification, and yet we have searched his volume in vain for the faintest condemnation of the Roman Proconsul. He tells us that, in the judgment of his contemporaries, he was the " dulcis,” the charming Gallio, and would give the impression that he was a most amiable and faultless person. Seneca, however, himself felt ashamed of him, when Nero in the eyes of his subjects exhausted infamy by exhibiting himself on the stage, the charming Gallio airing