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what me. thod God
all which he fondly contradicts himself, by inexcu- PROP. sably complying with the practices of those men, whom in many of his writings he largely and excellently proves to be extremely foolish upon account of those very practices : And to mention no more, (for indeed those of a lower rank, the minuter philosophers, as Tully calls them, are not worth mentioning) that admirable moralist Epictetus, who, for a true sense of virtue, seems to have had no superior in the heathen world; even he also advises men to offer libations and sacrifices to the gods,* every one according to the religion and custom of his country:
But still more particularly : That which of all other And in things, these best and wisest of the philosophers were most absolutely and unavoidably ignorant of
, and yet would be which, of all other things, was of the greatest import- reconciled ance for sinful men to know, was the method by ing sinwhich such as have erred from the right way, and ners. have offended God, may yet again restore themselves to the favour of God, and to the hopes of happiness. From the consideration of the goodness and mercifulness of God, the philosophers did indeed very reasonably hope, that God would show himself placable to sinners, and might be some way reconciled; but
; when we come to inquire more particularly what propitiation he will accept, and in what manner this reconciliation must be made, here nature stops, and expects with impatience the aid of some particular revelation. That God will receive returning sinners, and accept of repentance instead of perfect obedience, they cannot certainly know to whom he has not declared that he will do so; for though this be the most probable and only means of reconciliation that nature suggests, yet whether this will be alone sufficient, or whether God will not require something further for the vindication of his justice, and of the honour and dignity of his laws and government, and for the
* Σπέιδειν δε και θύειν, και άπάρχεσθαι κατά τα πάτρια εκάστω προσήκει, -Epict. cap. 38.
PROP. expressing more effectually his indignation against
sin, before he will restore men to the privileges they have forfeited, they cannot be satisfactorily assured; for it cannot positively be proved, from any of God's attributes, that he is absolutely obliged to pardon all creatures all their sins, at all times, barely and immediately upon their repenting. There arises, therefore, from nature, no sufficient comfort to sinners, but anxious and endless solicitude about the means of appeasing the Deity. Hence those divers ways of sacrificing, and numberless superstitions, which overspread the face of the heathen world, but were so little satisfactory to the wiser part of mankind, even in those times of darkness, that the more considering philosophers could not forbear frequently declaring that* they thought those rites could avail little or nothing towards appeasing the wrath of a provoked God, or making their prayers acceptable in his sight; but that something still seemed to them to be wanting, though they knew not what.
8. Some other doctrines absolutely necessary, likedoctrines, wise, to the bringing about this great end of tbe reDecessary formation of mankind, though there was indeed so in order to much proof and evidence of the truth of them to be mankind, drawn from reason, as that the best philosophers
could not by any means be entirely ignorant of philosophers were
them; yet so much doubtfulness, uncertainty, and unsteadiness, was there in the thoughts and assertions of these philosophers concerning them, as could not butt very much diminish their proper effect and influence upon the hearts and lives of men. I instance, in the immortality of the soul, the certainty of a future state, and the rewards and punishments to be distributed in a life to come. The arguments, which may
be drawn from reason and from the nature of things, for the proof of these great truths, seem
very doubtful and uncertain about.
* See Plato's Alcibiades 2. throughout.
Let nemo paret, quia nemo vult ad incertum laborare.- Lactant. lib. 3.
really (as I have before shown) to come very little PROP. short of strict demonstration : And accordingly the wisest philosophers (as has likewise been shown before) did indeed sometimes seem to have reasoned themselves into a firm belief of them, and to have been fully convinced of their certainty and reality; even so far as to apply them to excellent purposes and uses of life. But then, on the other hand, a man cannot without some pity and concern of mind observe, how strangely, at other times, the weight of the same arguments seems to have slipped (as it were) out of their minds; and with what wonderful diffidence, wavering, and unsteadiness, they discourse about the same things. I do not here think it of any very great moment, that there were indeed some whole sects of philosophers, who absolutely denied the immortality of the soul, and peremptorily rejected all kind of expectation of a life to come; (though, to be sure, this could not but in some measure shock the common people, and make them entertain some suspicion about the strength of the arguments used on the other side of the question by wiser men :) Yet, I say,) it cannot be thought of any very great moment, that some whole sects of philosophers did indeed absolutely deny the immortality of the soul ; because these men were weak reasoners in other matters also, and plainly low and contemptible philosophers, in comparison of those greater geniuses we are now speaking of. But that which I now observe, and which I say cannot be observed without some pity and concern of mind, is this; that even those great philosophers themselves, the very best and wisest and most considerate of them that ever lived, notwithstanding the undeniable strength of the arguments which sometimes convinced them of the certainty of a future state, did yet at other times express themselves with so much hesitancy and unsteadiness concerning it, as, without doubt, could not but extremely hinder the proper effect and influence which that most important consideration
PROP. ought to have upon the hearts and lives of men. I
am now, said Socrates* a little before his death, about to leave this world; and ye are still to continue in it : Which of us have the better part allotted to us, God'only knows:† Seeming to express some doubtfulness, whether he should have any existence after death, or not. And again, at the end of his most admirable discourse concerning the immortality of the soul ; I would have you to know,f said he to his friends who came to pay him their last visit, that I have great hopes I am now going into the company of good men: Yet I would not be too peremptory and confident concerning it. But|| if death be only as it were a transmigration from hence unto another place ; and those things, which are told us, be indeed true ; that those who are dead to us, do all live there: Then, &c. So likewise Cicero, speaking of the same subject : I will endeavour, saith he,g to explain what you desire ; yet I would not have you
I depend upon what I shall say, as certain and infallible; but I may guess, as other men do, at what shall seem most probable : And further than this, I cannot pretend to go. Again : Which of those two opinions,** saith he, [that the soul is mortal, or that it is immortal,] be true, God only knows; which
Εμοί μέν απογανεμίνω, υμίν βιωσομένοις· οπότεροι δε ημών έρχονται επί άμεινον πράγμα, άδηλον παντί πλην ή τω θε.-Plato in Apolog, Socr.
+ Quod præter Deos negat scire quenquam, scit ipse, utrum melius sit, nam dixit antè. Sed suum illud, nihil ut affirmet, tenet ad extremum.--Cic. Tusc. Qu. lib. 1.
+ Νύν δε ευ ίστε ότι παρ' άνδρας τε ελπίζω αφίξεσθαι αγαθούς, και τούτο ούκ μεν άν πάνυ διϊσχυρισαίμην.-Plato in Phaed.
| Ει δεύ αυ οίον αποδημήσαι εστιν ο θάνατος ενθένδε εις άλλον τόπον, και αληθή εστι τα λεγόμενα, ως άρα εκεί είσι πάντες οι τεθνεώτες, &c.-Plato in Apolog. Socrat.
$ Ea, quee vis, ut potero, explicabo; nec tamen quasi Pythius Apollo, certa ut sint et fixa quæ dixero, sed ut homunculus unus è multis, probabilia conjectura sequens. Ultra enim quò progrediar, quam ut verisimilia videam, non habeo.-Cig. Tusc. Quæst. lib. 1.
** Harum sententiarum quæ vera sit, Deus aliquis viderit ; quæ verisimillima, magna quæstio est.-Id. ibid.
of them is most probable, is a very great question. PROP. And again in the same discourse, having brought all those excellent arguments before-mentioned in proof of the immortality of the soul; yet we ought not, saich he,* to be overconfident of it: For it often happens that we are strongly affected at first with an acute argument; and yet, a little while after, stagger in our judgment, and alter our opinion, even in clearer matters than these: For these things must be confessed to have some obscurity in them. And again : I know not how, saith het when I read the arguments in proof of the soul's immortality, methinks I am fully convinced ; and yet after I have laid aside the book, and come to think and consider of the matter alone myself, presently I find myself slipt again insensibly into my old doubts. From all which it appears, that notwithstanding all the bright argumens and acute conclusions, and brave sayings of the best philosophers, yet life and immortality were not fully and satisfactorily brought to light by bare natural reason ;£ but men still plainly stood in need of some farther and more complete discovery.
4. Those things which the philosophers were indeed and those the most fully certain of, and did in good measure which they understand ; such as the obligations of virtue, and were in. the will of God in matters of morality ; yet they were lain of, yet never able to prove and explain clearly and distinctly they were enough, to persons of capacities, in order to their not able to complete conviction and reformation. First, because explain
distinctly * Etsi nihil nimis oportet confidere. Movemur enim sæpe aliquo enough. acutè concluso, labamus mutamusque sententiam clarioribus etiam in rebus ; in his est enim aliqua obscuritas.-Id ibid.
+ Nescio quomodo, dum lego, assentior, cum posui librum, et mecum ipse de immortalitate animorum cæpi cogitare, assensio omnis illa elabitur.-Id ibid.
Credebam facilè opinionibus magnorum virorum, tam gratissimam [animæ immortalitatem] promittentium magis quam probantium.-Senec. Epist. 102.
Adeo omnis illa tunc sapientia Socratis, de industria venerat consultæ æquanimitatis, non de fiducia compertæ veritatis.-Tertullian de Anima.