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sure, and put some kind of check to the extreme su- PROP. perstition and wickedness of the nations wherein they lived; yet none of these have ever been able to reform the world with any considerable great and universal success, because they have been but very few that have in earnest set themselves about this excellent work; and they that have indeed sincerely done it have themselves been entirely ignorant of some doctrines, and very doubtful and uncertain of others, absolutely necessary for the bringing about that great end; and those things which they have been certain of, and in good measure understood, they have not been able to prove and explain clearly enough; and those that they have been able both to prove and explain by sufficiently clear reasoning, they have not yet had authority enough to enforce and inculcate upon men's minds with so strong an impression as to influence and govern the general practice of the world.
1. There have, indeed, in almost every age been, in the heathen world, some wise, and brave, and good men, who have made it their business to study and practise the duties of natural religion themselves, and to teach and exhort others to do the like: An eminent instance whereof, in the eastern nations, the Scripture itself affords us in the history of Job; concerning whom it does not certainly appear that he knew any positive revealed institution of religion, or that, before his sufferings, any immediate revelation was made to him, as there was to Abraham and the rest of the patriarchs. Among the Greeks Socrates seems to be an extraordinary example of this kind, concerning whom Plato tells us, in his apology, that he did nothing else but go continually about, persuading both old and young, not to be so
* Ουδὲν γὰρ ἄλλο πράττων ἐγὼ περιέρχομαι, ἢ πείθων ὑμῶν καὶ νεωτέρες καὶ πρεσβυτέρες, μήτε σωμάτων ἐπιμελεῖσθαι, μήτε χρημάτων πρότερον, μήτε ἄλλο τινὸς ἔτω σφόδρα, ὡς τῆς ψυχῆς, ὅπως ὡς ἀρίστη ἔσται· λέγων, ὅτι ἐκ ἐκ χρημάτων ἡ ἀρετὴ γίνεται, ἀλλ' ἐξ ἀρετὴς χρήματα καὶ τἄλλα ταγαθὰ τοῖς ἀνθρώποις ἅπαντα, καὶ ἰδίᾳ καὶ δημοσία. Plato in Apol. Socrat.
PROP. much solicitous to gratify the appetites of the body, VI. or to heap up wealth, or to raise themselves to hon
Who seem to have been de
our, or gain any outward advantage whatsoever: as to improve the mind, by the continual exercise of all virtue and goodness: Teaching them, that a man's true value did not arise from his riches, or from any outward circumstances of life; but that true riches, and every real good, whether public or private, proceeded wholly from virtue. After him, Plato and Aristotle and others followed his example, in teaching morality. And among the Romans, Cicero, and in later times, Epictetus and Antoninus, and several others, gave the world admirable systems of ethics, and noble moral instructions and exhortations, of excellent use and benefit to the generations wherein they live, and deservedly of great value and esteem even unto this day.
2. So that I think, it may very justly be supposed, that these men were raised up and designed by Providence, (the abundant goodness of God having never left itself wholly without witness, notwithbear wit- standing the greatest corruptions and provocations of mankind,) as instruments to reprove in some wickedness measure, and put some kind of check to the extreme of the na- superstition and wickedness of the nations wherein they lived; or at least to bear witness against, and they lived. condemn it. Concerning Job, the case is evident and
confessed. And for the same reason, some of the ancientest writers of the church have not scrupled to call even Socrates also,* and some others of the best of the heathen moralists, by the name of Christians; and to affirm, that, as the law was as it were
† Καὶ ὁι μετὰ λόγου βιώσαντες, Χριστιανοι εἰσι, κἂν ἄθεοι ἐνομίσθησαν· οἷον ἐν "Ελλησι μεν Σωκράτης καὶ ̔Ηράκλειτος, καὶ ὁι ὅμοιοι αὐτοῖς ἐν βαρβάροις de 'Algaàu, &c.—Justin, Apolog. 2.
+ Τάχα δὲ καὶ προηγουμένως τοῖς Ἕλλησιν ἐδόθη ἡ φιλοσοφία τότε, πρὶν ἢ τὸν κύριον καλέσαι καὶ τὰς Ἕλληνας· ἐπαιδαγώγει γὰρ καὶ αὐτή τὸ ̔Ελληνικὸν, ὡς ὁ νόμος τους Εβραίους εἰς Χριστὸν προπαρασκευάζει τόινυν ἡ φιλοσοφία, προοδοποιοῦσα τὸν ὑπὸ Χριστοῦ τελειέμενον. Clem. Alexand. Strom.
a schoolmaster to bring the Jews unto Christ, so true PROP. moral philosophy was to the gentiles a preparative to receive the gospel. This perhaps was carrying the matter somewhat to far: But, to be sure, thus much we may safely assert, that* whatever any of these men were at any time enabled to deliver wisely and profitably, and agreeably to divine truth, was as a light shining in a dark place, derived to them by a ray of that infinite overflowing goodness, which does good to all even both just and unjust; from God the sole fountain of all truth and wisdom: And this, for some advantage and benefit to the rest of the world, even in its blindest and most corrupt estate.
3. But then, notwithstanding the most that can But yet be made of this supposition, it is certain the effect none of of all the teaching and instruction even of the best of the philosophers in the heathen world, was in com- able to reparison very small and inconsiderable. They never world were able to reform the world with any great and with any universal success, nor to keep together any consider-considerable number of men in the knowledge and practice cess. of true virtue. With respect to the worship of God, idolatry prevailed universally in all nations; and, notwithstanding men did indeed know God, so as to be without excuse, yet "they did not like to retain him in their knowledge, but became vain in their Rom. i, 21 imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened, -28. and they changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into images" of the vilest creatures; and no philosophers ever turned any great number of men from this absurd idolatry, to the acknowledgment and worship of the only true God. In respect of men's dealings one with another, honour and interest, and friendship, and laws, and the necessity of society, did indeed cause justice to be practised in many heathen nations to a great degree; but very few men
* Ο θεὸς γὰρ αὐτοῖς ταῦτα, καὶ ὅσα καλῶς λέλεκται, ἐφανέρωσε.—Orig. advers. Cels. lib. 6.
PROP. among them were just and equitable upon right and VI. true principles, a due sense of virtue, and a constant fear and love of God. With respect to themselves, intemperance and luxury, and unnatural uncleanness, was commonly practised, even in the most civilized countries; and this not so much in opposition to the doctrine of the philosophers, as by the consent indeed and encouragement of too great a part of them. I shall not enlarge upon this ungrateful and melancholy subject: There are accounts enough extant of the universal corruption and debauchery of the heathen world. St. Paul's description of it, in the whole first chapter of his Epistle to the Romans, is alone sufficient; and the complaints of their own writers abundantly confirm it.* The disciples of the best moralists, at least the practisers of their doctrine were, in their own lifetime,† very few, as too plainly appears from the evil treatment which that great
man Socrates met withal at Athens: And at their
* Egregium sanctumque virum si cerno, bimembri
See also the places cited a little below.
Juvenal, Sat. 13.
Sint licet perhonesti ;-sed audire deposcimus quot sint aut fuerint numero.. -Unus, duo, tres.- At genus humanum non ex bonis pauculis, sed ex cæteris omnibus æstimari convenit.Arnob. advers. Gentes, lib. 2.
Da mihi virum qui sit iracundus, maledicus, efficinatus, paucissimis Dei verbis tam placidum, quam ovem, reddam. Da libidinosum, &c.Numquis hæc philosophorum aut unquam præstitit, aut præstare, si velit, potest?-Lactant. lib. 3.
Παρὰ μὲν τοῖς "Ελλησιν εις τις Φάιδων καὶ ἐκ διδα εἰ δεύτερος, δε Origen advers. Cels.lib. 1.
did they appear to be true,) affected in such a man- PROP. ner that great admirer of Socrates, Plato, that he sometimes seems to give over all hopes of working' any reformation in men by philosophy; and says that a good man,* when he considers these things, would even choose to sit quiet, and shift for himself, like a man that in a violent hurricane creeps under a wall for his defence; and seeing the whole world round about him filled with all manner of wickedness, be content if, preserving his single self from iniquity and every evil work, he can pass away the present life in peace, and at last die with tranquillity and good hope. And, indeed, for many reasons, it was altogether impossible that the teaching of the philosophers should ever be able to reform mankind, and recover them out of their very degenerate and corrupt estate, with any considerably great and universal success.
1. In the first place, because the number of those Because who have in earnest set themselves about this excel- they have lent work have been exceeding few: Philosophers, very few indeed, that called themselves so, there were enough that have in every place, and in every age: But those who set themtruly made it their business to improve their reason selves to the height, to free themselves from the super- excellent stition which overwhelmed the whole world, to work. search out the obligations of morality, and the will of God their creator, to obey it sincerely themselves, as far as they could discover it by the light of nature, and to encourage and exhort others to do
the like; were but a very few names. The doctrine of far the greatest part of the philosophers consisted plainly in nothing but words, and subtilty, and strife, and empty contention; as did not at all amend even
Ταῦτα λογισμῷ λαβὼν, ἡσυχίαν ἔχων, καὶ τὰ ἁυτᾶ πράττων, οἷον ἐν Xelμῶνι κονιορτᾶ καὶ ζάλης ὑπὸ πνεύματος φερομένου, ὑπὸ τοιχίον ὑποστὰς ὁρῶν τὲς ἄλλες καταπιμπλαμένες, ἀνομίας, ἀγαπᾶ εἴ πη αὐτὸς καθαρὸς ἀδικίας τε καὶ ἀνοσίων ἔργων, τόντε ἐνθάδε βίον βιώσεται, καὶ τὴν ἀπαλλαγὴν, αὐτῆ μετὰ καλῆς ἐλπίδος ἴδεώς καὶ ἐυμενὴς ἀπαλλάξεται. Plato de Republ. lib. 6.