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were performed by many of the barbarous nations CENT. I. who had received their yoke; and this change PART I. was effected partly by the prudence of the victors, partly by the levity of the vanquished, and by their ambition to please their new masters.

ligion differ

of the Ro


XVIII. When, from the sacred rites of the ancient Systems of reRomans, we pass to a review of the other religions ent from that that prevailed in the world, we shall find, that the most remarkable may be properly divided into two classes, of which the one will comprehend the religious systems which owe their existence to political views; and the other, those which seemed to have been formed for military purposes. In the former class may be ranked the religions of most of the eastern nations, especially of the Persians, Egyptians, and Indians, which appear to have been solely calculated for the preservation of the state, the supporting of the royal authority and grandeur, the maintenance of public peace, and the advancement of civil virtues. Under the military class may be comprehended the religious system of the northern nations; since all the traditions that we find among the Germans, the Bretons, the Celts, and the Goths, concerning their divinities, have a manifest tendency to excite and nourish fortitude and ferocity, an insensibility of danger, and a contempt of life. An attentive inquiry into the religions of these respective nations, will abundantly verify what is here asserted.

among the could not rem.

edy these evils,

XIX. None of these nations indeed, ever arrived The wiser at such an excess of universal barbarity and igno- heathens rance, as not to have some discerning men among them, who were sensible of the extravagance of all these religions. But of these sagacious observers, some were destitute of the weight and authority that were necessary to remedy these overgrown evils; and others wanted the will to exert them

selves in such a glorious cause. And the truth is, none of them had wisdom equal to such a sol

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CENT. I. emn and arduous enterprise. This appears manifestly from the laborious, but useless efforts of some of the Greek and Roman philosophers against the vulgar superstitions. These venerable sages delivered in their writings, many sublime things concerning the nature of God, and the duties incumbent upon men; they disputed with sagacity against the popular religion; but to all this they added such chimerical notions, and such absurd subtilties of their own, as may serve to convince us, that it belongs to God alone, and not to man, to reveal the truth without any mixture of impurity

Two kinds of philosophy

prevailed at Christ's birth.

the time of

or error.

xx. About the time of Christ's appearance upon earth, there were two kinds of philosophy which prevailed among the civilized nations. One was the philosophy of the Greeks, adopted also by the Romans; and the other, that of the orientals, which had a great number of votaries in Persia, Syria, Chaldea, Egypt, and even among the Jews. The former was distinguished by the simple title of philosophy. The latter was honoured with the more pompous appellation of science or knowledge, since those who embraced this latter sect pretended to be the restorers of the knowledge of God, which was lost in the world. The followers of both these systems, in consequence of vehement disputes and dissensions about several points, subdivided themselves into a variety of sects. It is, however, to be observed, that all the sects of the oriental philosophy deduced their various tenets from one fundamental principle, which they held in common; whereas the Greeks were much divided even about the first principles of science.

∞ b[væσıç, gnosis, in the Greek signifies science or knowledge, and from hence came the title of gnostics, which this presumptuous sect claimed as due to their superior light and penetration in divine things. c St. Paul mentions and condemns both these kinds of philosophy; the Greek, in the Epistle to the Colossians, ii. 8, and the oriental, or gnosis, in the First Epistle to Timothy, vi, 20.

As we shall have occasion hereafter to speak of the oriental philosophy, we shall confine ourselves here to the doctrines taught by the Grecian sages, and shall give some account of the various sects into which they were divided.

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Grecian sys

sive of all

XXI. Among the Grecian sects, there were some Some of the which declared openly against all religion; and tems subver others, who, though they acknowledged a deity, piety. and admitted a religion, yet cast a cloud over the truth, instead of exhibiting it in its genuine beauty and lustre.

Of the former kind were the epicureans and academics. The epicureans maintained, "that the world arose from chance; that the gods, whose existence they did not dare to deny, neither did, nor could, extend their providential care to human affairs; that the soul was mortal; that pleasure & was to be regarded as the ultimate end of man ; and that virtue was neither worthy of esteem nor choice, but with a view to its attainment." The academics asserted the impossibility of arriving at truth, and held it uncertain, "whether the gods existed or not; whether the soul was mortal or immortal; whether virtue were preferable to vice, or vice to virtue." These two sects, though they struck at the foundations of all religion, were the most numerous of all others at the birth of Christ, and were particularly encouraged by the liberality of the rich, and the protection of those in power.

The ambiguity of the word pleasure has produced many disputes in the explication of the epicurean system. If by pleasure, be understood only sensual gratifications, the tenet here advanced is indisputably monstrous. But if it be taken in a larger sense, and extended to intellectual and moral objects; in what does the scheme of Epicurus, with respect to virtue, differ from the opinions of those christian philosophers, who maintain that self love is the only spring of all human affections and actions?

That of the epicureans was, however, the most numerous of the two, as appears from the testimony of Cicero, De finibus, &c. lib. i. cap. vii.



XXII. We observed in the preceding section, that there was another kind of philosophy, in which religion was admitted, but which was, at the same The Aristo time, deficient by the obscurity it cast upon truth.

Others cor rupted the truth.


The stoics.

Under the philosophers of this class, may be reckoned the platonists, the stoics, and the followers of Aristotle, whose subtile disputations concerning God, religion, and the social duties, were of little solid use to mankind. The nature of God, as it is explained by Aristotle, is something like the prin ciple that gives motion to a machine; it is a nature happy in the contemplation of itself, and entirely regardless of human affairs; and such a divinity, who differs but little from the god of Epicurus, cannot reasonably be the object either of love or fear. With respect to the doctrine of this philosopher concerning the human soul, it is uncertain, to say no more, whether he believed its immortality or not. What then could be expected from such a philosophy? could any thing solid and satisfactory, in favour of piety and virtue, be hoped for from a system which excluded from the universe a divine Providence, and insinuated the mortality of the human soul?

XXII. The god of the stoics has somewhat more majesty, than the divinity of Aristotle; nor is he represented by those philosophers as sitting above the starry heavens in a supine indolence, and a

lib. ii. cap. xiv. Disput. Tusculan. lib. v. cap. x. Hence the complaint which Juvenal makes in his X111th. Satire, of the atheism that prevailed at Rome, in those excellent words;

"Sunt in fortunæ qui casibus omnia ponunt,

Et nullo credunt mundum rectore moveri,

Natura volvente vices et lucis et anni;

Atque ideo intrepidi quæcunque altaria tangunt.”

See the notes upon Cudworth's Intellectual System of the Universe, which Dr. Mosheim subjoined to his Latin translation of that learned work, vol. i. p. 66, 500, vol. ii. p. 1171. See also upon the same subject Mourgue's Plan Theologique du Pythagorisme, tom. i. p. 79


perfect inattention to the affairs of the universe. Yet he is described as a corporeal being, united PART 1. to matter by a necessary connection, and subject to the determinations of an immutable fate, so that neither rewards nor punishments can properly proceed from him. The learned also know that, in the philosophy of this sect, the existence of the soul was confined to a certain period of time. Now it is manifest, that these tenets remove, at once, the strongest motives to virtue, and the most powerful restraints upon vice; and, therefore, the stoical system may be considered as a body of specious and pompous doctrine, but, at the same time, as a body without nerves, or any principles of consistence and vigour.

XXIV. Plato is generally looked upon as superior The platonics to all the other philosophers in wisdom; and this eminent rank does not seem to have been undeservedly conferred upon him. He taught that the universe was governed by a being, glorious in power and wisdom, and possessed of a perfect liberty and independence. He extended also the views of mortals beyond the grave, and showed them, in futurity, prospects adapted to excite their hopes, and to work upon their fears. His doctrine, however, beside the weakness of the foundations

Thus is the stoical doctrine of fate generally represented; but not more generally than unjustly. Their fatum, when carefully and attentively examined, seems to have signified no more, in the intention of the wisest of that sect, than the plan of government formed originally in the divine mind, a plan all wise and perfect, and from which, of consequence, the Supreme Being, morally speaking, can never depart. So that when Jupiter is said by the stoics to be subject to immutable fate, this means no more than that he is subject to the wisdom of his own counsels, and acts ever in conformity with his supreme perfections. The following remarkable passage of Seneca, drawn from the vth. chapter of his book De Providentia, is sufficient to confirm the explication we have here given of the stoical fate. "Ille ipse omnium conditor et rector seripsit quidem fata, sed sequitur. Semper paret, semel jussit."

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