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CENT. 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 [e]. XXII. We observed in the preceding section, rupted the that there was another kind of philosophy, in The Ari- which religion was admitted, but which was, at stotelians. the same time, deficient by the obscurity it cast

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upon truth. Under the philosophers of this class, may be reckoned the Platonists, the Stoics, and the followers of Aristotle, whose subtle 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 principle that gives motion

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?

[e] 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. lib. ii. cap. xiv. Disput. Tusculan. lib. v. cap. x. Hence the complaint which Juvenal makes in his xiiith 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."



to a machine; it is a nature happy in the con- CENT. templation 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 [f]. What then could be expected from such a philosophy? could any thing solid and sa tisfactory, 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?

XXIII. The god of the Stoics has somewhat The Stoics. 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 perfect inattention to the affairs of the universe. Yet he is described as a corporeal being, united to matter by a necessary connexion, and subject to the determinations of an immutable fate, so that neither rewards nor punishments can properly proceed from him [g]. The learned

[f] 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.

[9] 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 5th chapter of his book De Provi



CENT. 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.


The Plato- XXIV. Plato is generally looked upon as superior 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, besides the weakness of the foundations on which it rests, and the obscurity with which it is often expressed, has likewise many other considerable defects. It represents the Supreme Creator of the world as destitute of many perfections [h], and confined to a certain determinate portion of space. Its decisions, with

dentia, is sufficient to confirm the explication we have here given of the Stoical fate. "Ille ipse omnium Conditor et Rector scripsit quidem fata, sed sequitur. Semper paret, semel jussit."

[h] This accusation seems to be carried too far by Dr. Mosheim. It is not strictly true, that the doctrine of Plato represents the Supreme Being as destitute of many perfections. On the contrary, all the divine perfections are frequently acknowledged by that philosopher. What probably gave occasion to this animadversion of our learned author was the erroneous notion of Plato concerning the invincible malignity and corruption of matter, which the divine power had not been sufficient to reduce entirely to order. Though this notion is, indeed, injurious to the omnipotence of God, yet it is not sufficient to justify the censure now under consideration.



respect to the soul, and dæmons, are too much CENT. adapted to beget and nourish superstition. Nor will the moral philosophy of Plato appear worthy of such a high degree of admiration, if we attentively examine and compare together its various parts, and reduce them to their principles [i].

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XXV. As then, in these different sects, there Eclectios. were many things maintained that were highly unreasonable and absurd; and as a contentious spirit of opposition and dispute prevailed among them all; certain men of true discernment, and of moderate characters, were of opinion, that none of these sects were to be adhered to in all matters, but that it was rather wise to choose and extract out of each of them such tenets and doctrines as were good and reasonable, and to abandon and reject the rest. This gave rise to a new form of philosophy in Egypt, and principally at Alexandria, which was called the Eclectic, whose founder, according to some, was Potamon, an Alexandrian, though this opinion is not without its difficulties. It appears manifestly from the testimony of Philo the Jew, who was himself one of this sect, that this philosophy was in a flourishing state at Alexandria, when our Saviour was upon the earth. The Eclectics held Plato in the highest esteem, though they made no scruple to join with his doctrines whatever they thought conformable to reason in the tenets and opinions of the other philosophers [k].

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XXVI. The attentive reader will easily con- The use of clude, from the short view that we have here the foregogiven of the miserable state of the world at the

[i] There is an ample account of the defects of the Platonie philosophy in a work entitled, Defense des Pères accusés de Platonisme, par Franc. Baltus: but there is more learning than accuracy in that performance.

[k] See Godof. Olearius, De Philosophia Eclectica, Jac. Brucker and others.

CENT. birth of Christ, that mankind, in this period of I. darkness and corruption, stood highly in need of PART I. some divine teacher to convey to the mind true

and certain principles of religion and wisdom, and to recal wandering mortals to the sublime paths of piety and virtue. The consideration of this wretched condition of mankind will be also singularly useful to those who are not sufficiently ac quainted with the advantages, the comforts, and the support, which the sublime doctrines of Christianity are so proper to administer in every state, relation, and circumstance of life. A set of miserable and unthinking creatures treat with negligence, nay, sometimes with contempt, the religion of Jesus, not considering that they are indebted to it for all the good things which they so ungratefully enjoy.

The Jews

Herod the


Concerning the civil and religious State of the
Jewish Nation at the Birth of Christ.

I. THE state of the Jews was not much better governed by than that of the other nations at the time of Great. Christ's appearance in the world. They were governed by Herod, who was himself a tributary to the Roman people. This prince was surnamed the Great (surely from no other circumstance than the greatness of his vices), and his government was a yoke of the most vexatious and oppressive kind. By a cruel, suspicious, and overbearing temper, he drew upon himself the aversion of all, not excepting those who lived upon his bounty. By a mad luxury and an affectation of magnificence far above his fortune, together with the most profuse and immoderate largesses, he exhausted the treasures of that mi

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