Imágenes de páginas

of Christ, a man should arise, who, possessed of a turbulent and ambitious spirit, was to excite commotions in the state, and aim at supreme dominion. However that may have been, the persecution renewed by this unworthy prince was extremely violent, though his untimely death put a stop to it not long after it commenced. Flavius Clemens, a man of consular dignity, and Flavia Domitilla his niece, or, as some say, his wife, were the principal martyrs that suffered in this persecution, in which also the apostle John was banished to the isle of Patmos. Tertullian and other writers inform us, that, before his banishment, he was thrown into a caldron of boiling oil, from whence he came forth, not only living, but even unhurt. This story, however, is not attested in such a manner, as to leave no remaining doubt about its certainty.d

d See Mosheim's Syntagma dissert. ad historiam eccles. pertinentium, p. 497-546.









philosophy in

sufficiently known.

CENT.1. Ir we had any certain or satisfactory account of PART 11. the doctrines, which were received among the The state of wiser of the eastern nations, when the light of the the east not gospel first rose upon the world, this would contribute to illustrate many important points, in the ancient history of the church. But the case is quite otherwise; the fragments of the ancient oriental philosophy that are come down to us, are, as every one knows, few in number; and such as they are, they yet require the diligence, erudition, and sagacity of some learned man, to collect them into a body, to arrange them with method, and to explain them with perspicuity.

The philoso phy of the Per

II. The doctrine of the magi, who believed the sians, Chalde- universe to be governed by two principles, the one bians. good, and the other evil, flourished in Persia. Their followers, however, were not all agreed

ans, and Ara

The history of the oriental philosophy by Mr. Stanley, though it is not void of all kind of merit, is yet extremely defective. That learned author is so far from having exhausted his subject, that he has left it, on the contrary, in many places wholly untouched. The history of philosophy, published in Germany, by the very learned Mr. Brucker, is vastly preferable to Mr. Stanley's work; and the German author, indeed, much superior to the English one, both in point of genius and of erudition.

[ocr errors]


concerning the nature of these principles ; but this CENT. I. did not prevent the propagation of the main doctrine, which was received throughout a considerable part of Asia and Africa, especially among the Chaldeans, Assyrians, Syrians, and Egyptians, though with different modifications, and had even infected the Jews themselves. The Arabians at that time, and even afterward, were more remarkable for strength and courage than for genius and sagacity; nor do they seem, according to their own confession, to have acquired any great reputation for wisdom and philosophy before the time of Mahomet.

of the Indians

and Egyp


I. From the earliest times the Indians were dis- The wisdom tinguished by their taste for sublime knowledge and wisdom. We might, perhaps, be able to form a judgment of their philosophical tenets, if that most ancient book, which they looked upon as particularly sacred, and which they call veda, or the law, were brought to light, and translated into some known language. But the accounts which are given of this remarkable book, by those who have been in the Indies, are so various and irreconcilable with each other, that we must yet wait for further satisfaction on this head. As to the Egyptians,

f See Hyde's History of the religion of the ancient Persians, a work full of erudition and disorder, and interspersed with conjectures of the most improbable kind.

8 See a treatise of Jo. Christoph. Wolf, published at Hamburgh, in 1707, under the title of Manichæismus ante Manichæos. See also Mosheim's Observations upon Cudworth's Intellectual System of the Universe, p. 328, 423.

▲ See Abulpharaïus, De Moribus Arabum, published by Pocock.

I have lately heard that this most important, and long expected book has been acquired by some French Jesuits, who are missionaries in the Indies, and who have sent it over to the king of France's library. It is also said, that it is already translated, or will be so immediately. See Lettre du P. Calmette a M. de Cartigny, dans les Lettres edifiantes et curieuses des Missions Etrangeres, xxi. Recueil, p. 455, as also Recueil xxiii. p. 161.

The oriental


CENT. I. they were divided, as every one knows, into a PART II multitude of sects and opinions; so that their labour seems exceeding fruitless, who endeavour to reduce the philosophy of this people to one system. IV. But of all the different systems of philosophy philosophy, that were received in Asia and Africa about the properly so time of our Saviour, none was so detrimental to the christian religion, as that which was styled gnosis, or science, i. e. the way to the true knowledge of the Deity, and which we have above called the oriental doctrine, in order to distinguish it from the Grecian philosophy. It was from the bosom of this pretended oriental wisdom, that the chiefs of those sects, which in the three first centuries perplexed and afflicted the christian church, originally issued forth. These supercilious doctors, endeav ouring to accommodate to the tenets of their fantastic philosophy, the pure, the simple, and sublime doctrines of the Son of God, brought forth, as the result of this jarring composition, a multitude of idle dreams and fictions, and imposed upon their followers a system of opinions, which were partly ludicrous, and partly perplexed with intricate subtilties, and covered over with impenetrable obscurity. The ancient doctors, both Greek and Latin, who opposed these sects, considered them as so many branches that derived their origin from the platonic philosophy. But this was pure illusion; an apparent resemblance between certain opinions of Plato, and some of the tenets of the eastern schools, deceived these good men, who had no knowledge but of the Grecian philosophy, and were absolutely ignorant of the oriental doctrines. Whoever compares the platonic and gnostic philosophy together, will easily perceive the wide difference that there is between them.

* See Mosheim's Observations on the Intellectual System, &c. in his Latin translation of that work, tom. i. p. 415.

v. The first principles of the oriental philosophy seem perfectly consistent with the dictates of reason; for its first founder must undoubtedly have argued in the following manner; "there are many evils in this world, and men seem impelled by a natural instinct to the practice of those things which reason condemns; but that eternal mind, from which all spirits derive their existence, must be inaccessible to all kinds of evil, and also of a most perfect and beneficent nature; therefore the origin of those evils, with which the universe abounds, must be sought somewhere else than in the Deity. It cannot reside in him who is all perfection; and therefore it must be without him. Now, there is nothing without or beyond the Deity, but matter; therefore matter is the centre and source of all evil, of all vice." Having taken for granted these principles, they proceeded further, and affirmed, that matter was eternal, and derived its present form, not from the will of the Supreme God, but from the creating power of some inferior intelligence, to whom the world and its inhabitants owed their existence. As a proof of this assertion, they alleged that it was incredible, that the Supreme Deity, perfectly good, and infinitely removed from all evil, should either create or modify matter, which is essentially malignant and corrupt, or bestow upon it, in any degree, the riches of his wisdom and liberality. They were, however, aware of the insuperable difficulties that lay against their system ; for when they were called to explain, in an accurate and satisfactory manner, how this rude and corrupt matter came to be arranged into such a regular and harmonious frame as that of the universe, and, particularly, how celestial spirits were joined to bodies formed out of its malignant mass, they were sadly embarrassed, and found that the plainest dictates of reason declared their system incapable of defence. In this perplexity, they had

[blocks in formation]
« AnteriorContinuar »