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Freedom Founts

Source Materials About Freedom


1. He whose boldness appears in his daring (to do wrong, in defiance of the laws) is put to death; he whose boldness appears in his not daring (to do so) lives on. Of these two cases the one appears to be advantageous, and the other to be injurious. But
    When Heaven's anger smites a man,
    Who the cause shall truly scan?
On this account the sage feels a difficulty (as to what to do in the former case).


2. It is the way of Heaven not to strive, and yet it skilfully overcomes; not to speak, and yet it is skilful in (obtaining) a reply; does not call, and yet men come to it of themselves. Its demonstrations are quiet, and yet its plans are skilful and effective. The meshes of the net of Heaven are large; far apart, but letting nothing escape.

Legge's Comments

任為, 'Allowing Men to take their Course.' The chapter teaches that rulers should not be hasty to punish, especially by the infliction of death. Though they may seem to err in leniency, yet Heaven does not allow offenders to escape.

While Heaven hates the ill-doer, yet we must not always conclude from Its judgments that every one who suffers from them is an ill-doer; and the two lines which rhyme, and illustrate this point, are equivalent to the sentiment in our Old Book, 'Clouds and darkness are round about Him.' They are ascribed to Lǎozǐ by Lièzǐ (VI, 7 a); but, it has been said, that they are quoted by him 'in an entirely different connexion.' But the same text in two different sermons may be said to be in different connexions. In Lièzǐ and our Jīng the lines have the same meaning and substantially the same application. Indeed Zhāng Zhàn, of our fourth century, the commentator of Lièzǐ, quotes the comment of Wáng Bì on this passage, condensing it into, 'Who can know the mind of Heaven? Only the sage can do so.'