Imágenes de páginas

the Hindoos; and after the reader shall have compared the two systems, the author is persuaded he will not consider the conjecture as improbable, that Pythagoras and others did really visit India, or that Goutumu and Pythagoras were cotemporaries, or nearly so." (Vol. 4.)

Many of the subjects discussed among the Hindoos were the very subjects which excited the disputes in the Greek academies, such as the eternity of matter, the first cause; God the soul of the world; the doctrine of atoms; creation; the nature of the gods; the doctrines of fate, transmigration, successive revolutions of worlds, absorption into the Divine Being," &c. (Ibid. p. 115.)

Mr. Ward enters at large into this coincidence in his introductory remarks to his fourth volume, to which the reader is referred. It shall only be observed, that those speculations, and subtle arguments just mentioned, both in the Greek and Asiatic branches of pagan philosophy, gave birth to absolute Atheism.—— Several of the Greek philosophic sects, as is well known, were professedly Atheistic. Cudworth enumerates four forms assumed by this species of unbelief.— The same principles which distinguish their sects may be traced in several of those of the Hindoos, and above all the Atheistical system of Budhoo, branched off from the vain philosophy of the Brachminical schools, and has extended farther than Hindooism itself. The reason of all this is truly given by Bishop Warbur ton, as to the Greeks, and it is equally applicable to the Asiatic philosophy of the present day, which is so clearly one and the same, and also to many errors which have crept into the Church of Christ itself. "The philosophy of the Greeks," he observes, led to unbelief, "because it was above measure refined and speculative, and used to be determined by metaphysical rather than by moral principles, and to stick to all consequences, how absurd soever, that were seen to arise from such principles."


The Necessity of Revelation ;-State of Religious Knowledge among the Heathen.

SEVERAL presumptive arguments have been offered in favour of the opinion, that almighty God in his goodness has made an express revelation of his will to mankind. They have been drawn from the fact, that we are moral agents, and therefore under a law or rule of conduct -from the consideration that no law can be binding till made known, or at least rendered cognizable by those whom it is intended to governfrom the inability of the generality of men to collect any adequate information on moral and religious subjects by processes of induction-from the insufficiency of reason, even in the wisest, to make any satisfactory discovery of the first principles of religion and duty-from the want of all authority and influence in such discoveries, upon the majority of mankind, had a few minds of superior order and with more favourable opportunities been capable of making them—from the fact that no such discovery was ever made by the wisest of the ancient sages, inasmuch as the truths they held were in existence before their day, even in the earliest periods of the patriarchal ages-and from the fact, that whatever

truths they collected from early tradition, or from the descendants of Abraham, mediately or immediately, they so corrupted under the pretence of improving them, (5) as to destroy their harmony and moral influence, thereby greatly weakening the probability that moral truth was ever an object of the steady and sincere pursuit of men. To these presumptions in favour of an express revelation, written, preserved with care, and appointed to be preached and published under the authority of its author, for the benefit of all, wise or unwise, we may add the powerful presumption which is afforded by the necessity of the case. This necessity of a revelation is to be collected, not only from what has been advanced, but from the state of moral and religious knowledge and practice, in those countries where the records which profess to contain the Mosaic and the Christian revelations have been or are still unknown.

The necessity of immediate Divine instruction was acknowledged by many of the wisest and most inquiring of the heathen, under the conviction of the entire inability of man unassisted by God to discover truth with certainty,—so greatly had the primitive traditional revelations been obscured by errors before the times of the most ancient of those sages among the heathen, whose writings have in whole or in part been transmitted to us, and so little confidence had they in themselves to separate truth from error, or to say, "This is true and that false." And as the necessity of an express and authenticated revelation was acknowledged, so it was publicly exhibited, because on the very first principles of religion and morals, there was either entire ignorance, or no settled and consonant opinions, even among the wisest of mankind themselves. (6)

(5) Plato, in his Epinominis, acknowledges that the Greeks learned many things from the barbarians, though he asserts, that they improved what they thus borrowed, and made it better, especially in what related to the worship of the gods. (Plat. Oper. p. 703. Edit. Ficin. Lugd. 1590.)

(6) Plato, beginning his discourse of the gods and the generation of the world, cautions his disciples "not to expect any thing beyond a likely conjecture concerning these things." Cicero, referring to the same subject, says, "Latent ista omnia crassis occulta et circumfusa tenebris, all these things are involved in deep obscurity."

The following passage from the same author may be recommended to the con sideration of modern exalters of the power of unassisted reason. The treasures of the philosophy of past ages were poured at his feet, and he had studied every branch of human wisdom, with astonishing industry and acuteness, yet he observes, "Quod si tales nos natura genuisset, ut eam ipsam intueri, et perspicere, eademque optima duce cursum vitæ conficere possemus; haud erat sane quod quisquam rationem, ac doctrinam requireret. Nunc parvulos nobis dedit igniculos, quos celeriter malis moribus, opinionibusque depravati sic restinguimus, ut nusquam naturæ lumen appareat. If we had come into the world in such cir cumstances, as that we could clearly and distinctly have discerned nature herself, and have been able in the course of our lives to follow her true and uncorrupted directions, this alone might have been sufficient, and there would have been little need of teaching and instruction; but now nature has given us only some

Some proofs of this have already been adduced; but the importance of the subject requires that they should be enlarged.

Though the belief of one Supreme Being has been found in many parts of the world, yet the notion of subordinate deities, the immediate dispensers of good and evil to men, and the objects of their fear and worship, has almost equally obtained; and this of necessity destroyed or greatly counteracted the moral influence of that just opinion.

"The people generally among the Gentiles," says Dr. Tenison, " did rise little higher than the objects of sense. They worshipped them each as supreme in their kind, or no otherwise unequal than the sun, and the moon, or the other celestial bodies, by the adoration of which the ancient idolaters, as Job intimateth, denied (or excluded) the God that is above. Porphyry himself, one of the most plausible apologists for the religion of the Gentiles, doth own in some the most gross and blockish idolatry of mean objects. He tells us that it is not a matter of which we should be amazed, if most ignorant men esteemed wood and stones Divine statues; seeing they who are unlearned look upon monuments which have inscriptions upon them as ordinary stones, and regard books as so many bundles of paper." (Discourse on Idolatry, p. 50.)

The modern idolatry of Hindostan, which in principle differs nothing from that of the ancient world, affords a striking comment upon this point, and indeed is of great importance in enabling us to conceive justly of the true character and practical effects of idolatry in all ages. One Supreme Being is acknowledged by the Hindoos, but they never worship him, nor think that he concerns himself with human affairs at all. "The Hindoos believe in one God, so completely abstracted in his own essence, however, that in this state he is emphatically the unknown, and is consequently neither the object of hope nor of fear; he is even destitute of intelligence, and remains in a state of profound repose." (Ward's Hindoo Mythology, vol. ii, p. 306.)

"This Being," says Moore, (Hindoo Pantheon, p. 132,) “is called Brahm, one eternal mind, the self-existing, incomprehensible Spirit. To him, however, the Hindoos erect no altars. The objects of their adora

small sparks of right reason, which we so quickly extinguish with corrupt opin. ions and evil practices, that the true light of nature nowhere appears." (Tusc. Quæst. 3.)

The same author, (Tusc. Quæst. 1,) having reckoned up the opinions of philo. sophers as to the soul's immortality, concludes thus, "Harum sententiarum quæ vera est Deus aliquis viderit, quæ verisimillima est, magna quæstio est. Which of these opinions is true, some god must tell us; which is most like truth, is a great question." Jamblicus, speaking of the principles of Divine worship, saith: "It is manifest that those things are to be done which are pleasing to God; but what they are, it is not easy to know, except a man were taught them by God himself, or by some person who had received them from God, or obtained the knowledge of them by some Divine means." (Jamb. in Vit. Pythag. c. 28.)

tion commence with the triad,-Brahma, Vishnu, and Seva, which represent the almighty powers of creation, preservation, and destruction." The learned among the classic heathen, it is true, occasionally speak nobly concerning God and his attributes; but at the same time they were led by their own imaginations and reasonings to conclusions, which neutralize the effect of their sublimer conceptions and often contradict them. The eternity of matter, for instance, was held by the Greek and Roman philosophers and by their preceptors in the oriental schools, who thought it absolutely impossible that any thing should be produced from nothing, thus destroying the notion of creation in its proper sense, and of a Supreme Creator. This opinion, as Bishop Stillingfleet shows, (Origines Sacræ, 1. iii, c. 2,) is contrary to the omnipotence and independence of God, and is a great abatement of those correct views which the words of the ancient philosophers would seem sometimes to express. (7)

It had another injurious effect; it destroyed the interesting doctrine of Divine government as to those natural evils to which men are subject. These they traced to the unchangeable and eternal nature of matter, which even the Supreme God could not control. Thus Seneca says, (De Provid. cap. 5,) "that evil things happen to good men, quia non potest Artifex mutare materiam, because God the Artificer could not change matter; and that a magno Artifice multa formantur prava, many things were made ill by the great Artificer; not that he wanted art, but through the stubbornness of matter," in which they generally agree. This opinion of theirs was brought from the oriental schools, where it

(7) When we meet with passages in the writings of heathens which recom. mend moral virtues, and speak in a fit and becoming manner of God, we are apt from our more elevated knowledge of these subjects to attach more correct and precise ideas to the terms used, than the original writers themselves, and to give them credit for better views than they entertained. It is one proof, that though some of them speak, for instance, of God seeing and knowing all things, they did not conceive of the omniscience of God in the manner in which that attribute is explained by those who have learned what God is from his own words; that some of the pagan philosophers who lived after the Christian era, complain that the Christians had introduced a very troublesome and busy God, who did "in omnium mores, actus, omnium verba denique, et occultas cogitationes diligenter inquirere, diligently inquire into the manners, actions, words, and secret thoughts of all men." Cicero, too, denies the foreknowledge of God, and for the same reason which has been urged against it in modern times by some who, for the time at least, have closed their eyes upon the testimony of the Scriptures on this point, and been willing, in order to serve a favourite theory, to go back to the obscurity of paganism. The difficulty with him is, that prescience is inconsistent with contingency. Mihi ne in Deum cadere videatur ut sciat quid casu et fortuito futurum sit; si enim scit, certe illud eveniet; si certe eveniet, nulla fortuna est; est autem fortuna, rerum ergo fortuitarum nulla præsensio est. (De Fato. n. 12, 13.)

had been long received; nor was it confined to Egypt and Chaldea. It was one of the dogmas which Confucius taught in China in the fifth century before Christ, that out of nothing that which is cannot be produced, and that material bodies must have existed from all eternity. From this notion it follows, that there is no calamity to which we are not liable, and that God himself is unable to protect us from it. Prayer is useless, and trust in him is absurd. The noble doctrine of the inflic. tion of misery by a wise and gracious Being for our correction and improvement, so often dwelt upon in Scripture, could have no place in a system which admitted this tenet; God could neither be "a refuge in trouble," nor a Father, "correcting us for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness." What they knew of God was therefore, by such speculations, rendered entirely unprofitable.

But a worse consequence resulted from this opinion. By some of them the necessary obliquity and perverseness of matter was regarded not only as the source of natural, but also of moral evil; by which they either made sin necessary and irresistible, or found in this opinion much to palliate it.

Others refer moral evil to a natural principle of evil, an evil god, "emulous of the good God," which Plutarch says, (8) is a tradition of great antiquity, derived "from the divines sx soλoywv and lawgivers to the poets and philosophers, whose first author cannot be found." But whether natural and moral evil be traced to an eternal and uncontrollable matter, or to an eternal and independent anti-god, it is clear that the notion of a Supreme Deity, as contained in the Scriptures, and as conceived of by modern Theists, who have borrowed their light from them, could have no existence in such systems; and that by making moral evil necessary, men were taught to consider it as a misfortune rather than a crime, and were thus in fact encouraged to commit it by regarding it as unavoidable.


In like manner, though occasionally we find many excellent things said of the providence of God, all these were weakened or destroyed by other opinions. The Epicurean sect denied the doctrine, and laid it down as a maxim, "that what was blessed and immortal gave neither any trouble to itself nor to others;" a notion which exactly agrees with the system of the modern Hindoos. According to the doctrine of Aristotle, God resides in the celestial sphere, and observes nothing, and cares for nothing beyond himself. Residing in the first sphere, he possesses neither immensity nor omnipresence; far removed from the inferior parts of the universe, he is not even a spectator of what is passing among its inhabitants." (Enfield's History of Philosophy, lib. ii,

(8) De Isid. et Osir.-Dr. Cudworth thinks that Plutarch has indulged in an overstrained assertion: but the confidence with which the philosopher speaks is at least a proof of the great extent of this opinion.

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