Imatges de pÓgina
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same person. It is however to be lamented, that the indiscreet zeal of some professors of Christianity even now leads them rather to imitate the illiberality of Lactantius, and represent philosophy, as he has done, in the most unfavorable colours; as ill-founded in principles, and utterly unprofitable in practice. And here it is to be observed, that as the decided hostility of some Christians was not manifested against the professors of ancient philosophy until their religion became that of the Roman empire, so the annexation of revenues to the church, thus rendering it dependent upon the state, would naturally tend to render the ministers of Christianity. more intolerant. Monboddo observes, " While there was no money in the Christian church to be given to the clergy, which was the case before Christianity became the established religion of the Roman empire, there was perfect peace in the church. The same was the case in the pagan church, where there were no salaries or benefices to be given to the ministers of religion; for even the Pontifex Maximus in Rome had not a shilling of salary, or any perquisites annexed to his office. But when the ministers of Christianity were paid, and some of them had princely revenues annexed to their office, this naturally produced strife and contention among the clergymen of the same national church, who should possess these benefices and if there was any sect of religionists who desired a change of the established religion, by which they were to come in place of the clergymen in possession of the revenues of the church, then arose persecution and massacres, such as that of St. Bartholomew in France, and religious wars, such as were unheard-of among the heathens and thus a religion of the greatest love was made the source of great enmity and great destruction to men." That religion has given rise to many sanguinary wars and cruel persecutions, arising from the interested views of the clergy, cannot be denied; and it is equally certain, that many of that body, from the third century, have shown much reluctance to admit, that the precepts of ancient philosophy teach how to form exalted ideas of the Deity-to ascertain the immortality of the human soul-and to regulate the actions of men according to the principles of truth and justice, with the express view of preparing them for a happier state hereafter. They appear to think, that to admit thus much, would endanger the Christian religion itself, while in reality, it must ever prove its strongest and best support; that it is agreeable to the order of the universe, and to what in all ages has appeared to the well-informed and contemplative mind to be truth. When St. Paul addressed himself to the Athenians, he taught, "that there was one God, who made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, he dwelleth not in temples made with hands, neither is worshipped with men's

hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things, and hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth; and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: for in him we live and move and have our being, as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art or man's device." Of this God it appears that those of the popular religion had an idea: for the apostle tells them, that he came to declare to them the Deity, whom they worshipped under the name of the Unknown God. Hitherto it appears that the Atheniaus heard the preacher with attention; but when he came to speak of the resurrection of the dead, and a future judgment, by the man whom God had ordained, he tells us, "that some mocked, and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter." Let the impartial reader compare the doctrine of St. Paul with the passages quoted from Boëtius and others, and he will find that to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God, was enjoined by the philosophers; and that the apostles only found difficulty in convincing those whom they endeavoured to convert, of facts connected immediately with the mission and character of Christ, and the resurrection of the body after death. "It appears," says the learned author already quoted (Monboddo), "that the Christian religion is founded upon principles of philosophy, such as are formed from the study of nature; and indeed I think it would be absurd, and even impious, to maintain that there is any thing in it contrary to the order of nature and the system of the universe." He adds, in another place, that "from the philosophy of the Christian religion, it is evident that it was a religion fitted for a learned age, such as the age of Augustus Cæsar, but could not have been propagated in an unlearned age. Such an age St. Paul, in his speech to the Areopagus, calls the times of ignorance;" and he concludes from this, that Christ came in the fulness of time, when the minds of men were sufficiently well informed to receive his doctrine. It is true, that all philosophers were not converts to the Christian religion; that Seneca and Marcus Antoninus, with many others, in habits of daily intercourse with Christians, yet did not adopt their religion. It is not our business in this place to attempt to account for this. Miraculous interpositions excepted, men will discover and embrace the truth more or less readily according to their various capacities, and an infinite number of external circumstances, which more or less influence all men; and if, even at the present day, some deny the divinity of Christ, and the doctrines

which immediately relate to the redemption of mankind by him, we cannot wonder that Christianity was not adopted immediately upon its promulgation, by all who heard its doctrines preached.

The object of this essay is to recommend the study of ancient philosophy, the very memory of which is in danger of being lost amongst us, when professors in our universities, from ignorance of its doctrines, teach their pupils that it is unworthy of their attention. It is true that a few still cultivate this philosophy; but while in public schools, and periodical publications, which in no small degree influence public opinion, it is neglected or treated with contempt, because it is not understood, the example of the few will produce no considerable effect upon the many still engaged in unmeaning discussions, and the absolutely hopeless task of attempting to arrive at general truths, by multiplied experiments upon matter ever varied and ever changing. That the artisan improves in bis art by repeated efforts or experiments, is true; but it is also true, that changing and perishable matter, strictly speaking, cannot be the object of science properly so called, as its state is every moment changing, and it is in progress to become something different from what it was. For this reason, the ancients said of matter, yiverai, oux σTI, and they held that true science must relate to what is in itself permanent, eternal and unchangeable. At the present day, the experiments of the moderns tend to confirm this fact, that no really simple substance comes under the cognisance of our senses; that all things are resolvable into air, from which again all things are produced; and this is exactly what was taught by the ancients, that Zeus, Jupiter, is all things, and that, as it is expressed in the passage quoted from Orpheus, "having hid all things, he again produces them to the view of mankind (s pos) doing marvellous things." Virgil and Ovid, both philosophical poets, in many passages teach that air is the great source of life, and of all material forms. "Jovis omnia plena"-" Jupiter est quodcunque vides," are strong expressions used by Virgil to this effect; and speaking of the animating principle of vegetation, we are told by Horace, that genial showers bring it down to earth, "imbresque deducunt Jovem;" as in the seventh Eclogue Virgil more beautifully expresses the same idea,

“Jupiter et lato descendit plurimus imbre ;"

and during winter the same power, but in a state of inactivity, was said to descend in hail and snow.

Euripides, as quoted by Cicero, in his second book, "De Natura Deorum," says,

"Vides sublime, fusum, immoderatum æthera,
Qui, tenero terram circumvectu amplectitur;
Hunc summum habeto Divum."

"See the sublime and wide-expanded æther,
Within his genial arms clasping the earth;
This call thou God and Jove."

"By air," says Bishop Berkeley, "fire is kindled, the lamp of life preserved. The seeds of things seem to lie latent in the air, ready to appear and produce their kind whenever they light on a proper matrix. The whole atmosphere seems alive, and to be a common seminary and receptacle of all vivifying principles. Æther, or pure invisible fire, the most subtile and elastic of all bodies, seems to pervade and expand itself through the whole universe. If air be the immediate agent or instrument in natural things, it is the pure, invisible fire, that is the first natural mover or spring from whence the air derives its power. This mighty agent is everywhere at hand, ready to break forth into action, if not restrained and governed with the greatest wisdom. Being always restless and in motion, it actuates and enlivens the whole visible mass, is equally fitted to produce and to destroy, distinguishes the various stages of nature, and keeps up the perpetual round of generations and corruptions, pregnant with forms, which it constantly sends forth and absorbs. So quick in its motions, so subtile and penetrating in its nature, so extensive in its effects, it seemeth no other than the vegetative soul, or vital spirit of the world. The phenomena and effects do plainly show that there is a spirit that moves, and a mind or providence that presides. This Providence, Plutarch saith, was thought to be in regard to the world, what the soul is in regard to man. The order and course of things, and the experiments we daily make, show there is a mind that governs and actuates this mundane system, as the proper real agent and cause; and that the inferior instrumental cause is pure æther, fire, or the substance of light, which is applied and determined by an infinite mind in the macrocosm, or universe, with unlimited power, and according to stated rules, as it is in the microcosm, with limited power and skill, by the human mind. We have no proof, either from experience or reason, of any other agent or efficient cause than mind or spirit. When, therefore, we speak of corporeal agents, or corporeal causes, this is to be understood in a different subordinate and improper sense. That whereof a thing is compounded, the instrument used in its production, and the end for which it was intended, are all in vulgar use termed causes, though none of them be, strictly speaking, agent or efficient. There is not any proof that an extended corporeal or mechanical cause doth really and properly act; even motion itself being, in

truth, a passion. When, therefore, force, power, virtue, or action, are mentioned as subsisting in an exalted and corporeal or mechanical being, this is not to be taken in a true, genuine, and real, but only in a gross and popular sense, which sticks in appearances, and doth not analyse things to their first principles. In compliance with established language, and the use of the world, we must employ the popular currrent phrase; but then in regard to truth, we ought to distinguish its meaning. This pure spirit, or invisible fire, is ever ready to exert and show itself in its effects, cherishing, heating, fermenting, resolving, shining, and operating in various manners, where a subject offers to employ or determine its force. It is present in all parts of the earth and firmament, though perhaps latent and unobserved, till some accident produceth it into act, and renders it visible in its effects.

There is no effect in nature great, marvellous, or terrible, but proceeds from fire, that diffused and active principle which, at the same time that it shakes the earth and the heavens, will enter, divide, and dissolve the smallest, closest and most compacted bodies. In remote cavities of the earth, it remains quiet, till perhaps an accidental spark from the collision of one stone against another kindles an exhalation that gives birth to an earthquake or tempest, which splits mountains or overturns cities. The Magi said of God, that he had light for his body and truth for his soul; and in the Chaldaic Oracles, all things are supposed to be governed by a rug voɛpov, or intellectual fire: and in the same oracles, the creative mind is said to be ἑσσάμενος πυρὶ πῦρ, which oriental reduplication of the word fire, seems to imply the extreme purity and force thereof. Thus also in the Psalms," thou art clothed with light as with a garment," where the word rendered light might have been rendered fire, the Hebrew letters being the same with those in the word that signifies fire, all the difference being in the pointing, which is justly counted a late invention. That other Scripture sentence is remarkable: "who maketh his ministers a flaming fire," which might perhaps be rendered, more agreeably to the context, as well as consistently with the Hebrew, after this manner," who maketh flaming fire his ministers;" and the whole might run thus: "who maketh the winds his messengers, and flaming fire his ministers."-" A notion of something divine in fire animating the whole world, and ordering its se veral parts, was a tenet of very general extent, being embraced in the most distant times and places, even among the Chinese themselves, who make tien,1 ather, or heaven, the sovereign principle or

The word tien, in the old Celtic language, and in countries far remote from China, signified the Fire of the Sun. The festival of Bel-tien continued to be observed in some parts of Scotland even in the last century; and even

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