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PROP. that we expect quietly; nay, it is absolutely necesVII. sary, that we wait with patience till such time as we
can learn certainly how we ought to behave ourselves both towards God and towards men. When will that time come, replies the disciple, and who is it that will teach us this? For, methinks, I earnestly desire to see and know who the person is that will do it. It is one, answers Socrates, who has now a concern for you. But in like manner, as Homer relates, that Minerva took away the mist from before Diomede's eyes, that he might be able to distinguish one person from another, so it is necessary that the mist, which is now before your mind, be first taken away, that afterwards you may learn to distinguish rightly between good and evil; for, as yet, you are not able to do it. Let the person you mentioned, replies the disciple, take away this mist, or whatever else it be, as soon as he pleases; for I am willing to do any thing he shall direct, whosoever this person be, so that I may but become a good man. Nay, answers Socrates, that person has a wonderful readiness and willingness to do all this for you. It will be best, then, replies the disciple, to forbear offering any more sacrifices till the time that this person appears. You judge very well, answers Socrates; it will be much safer so to do, than to run so great a hazard of offering sacrifices, which you know not whether they are acceptable to God or no. Well then, replies the disciple, we will then make our offerings to the Gods, when that day comes; and I hope, God willing, it may not be far off. And, in another place, the same author having given a large account of that most excellent discourse, which Socrates made a little before his death, concerning the great doctrines of religion, the immortality of the soul, and the certainty of a life to come, he introduces one of his disciples replying in the following manner: I am,* saith
* Ἐμοὶ γὰρ δοκεῖς ὦ Σώκρατες, περὶ τῶν τοιέτων ίσως ὥσπερ καὶ σοὶ τὸ μὲν σαφὲς εἰδέναι ἐν τῷ νῦν βίῳ ἢ ἀδύνατον εἶναι, ἢ παγχάλεπον τί· τὸ μέντοι αυτὰ [leg : τὰ] λεγόμενα περὶ ἀυτῶν μὴ ἐχὶ παντι τρόπῳ ἐλέγχειν, καὶ προ
he, of the same opinion with you, O Socrates, con- PROP. cerning these things; that to discover the certain truth of them, in this present life, is either absolutely impossible for us, or at least exceeding difficult. Yet not to inquire, with our utmost diligence, into what can be said about them, or to give over our inquiry before we have carried our search as far as possible, is the sign of a mean and low spirit. On the contrary, we ought therefore by all means to do one of these two things, either, by hearkening to instruction, and by our own diligent study, to find out the truth, or, if that be absolutely impossible, then to fix our foot upon that which to human reason, after the utmost search, appears best and most probable; and, trusting to that, venture upon that bottom to direct the course of our lives accordingly; unless a man could have still some more sure and certain conduct to carry him through this life, such as a divine discovery of the truth would be. I shall mention but one instance more, and that is of Porphyry, who, though he lived after our Saviour's time, and had a most inveterate hatred to the Christian re. velation in particular, yet confesses in general,* that
αφίστασθαι πρὶν ἂν πανταχῆ σκοπῶν ἀπείπῃ τις, πάνυ μαλθακό εἶναι ἀνδρὸς. [Note that Ficinus, in his translation of this passage, as if the word ἐχ was to be repeated ἀπὸ τοῦ κοινοῦ with προαφίετασθαι, writes absurdly non desistere, instead of desistere.] A yag megi aurà ïv ye τι τέτων διαπράξασθαι· ἢ μαθεῖν ὅπη ἔχει, ἢ ἑυρεῖν, ἢ, εἰ ταῦτα ἀδυνατον τὸν γοῦν βέλτιστον τῶν ̓Ανθρωπίνων Λόγων λαβόντα καὶ δυσελεγκτότατον, ἐπὶ τοῦτο ὀχούμενον, ὥσπερ ἐπὶ σχεδίας, κινδυνεύοντα διαπλεῦσαι τὸν βίον· εἰ μή τις δύο ναιτο ἀσφαλέστερον καὶ ἀκινδυνότερον, ἐπὶ βεβαιοτέρα ὀχήματος, ἢ Λόγε Θεία τινός, διαπορευθῆναι. Plato in Phedron.
* Quum autem dicit Porphyrius, in primo de Regressu Animæ libro, nondum receptum in unam quandam sectam quæ universalem viam animæ contineat liberandæ, nondumque in suam notitiam eandem viam historiali cognitione perlatum, procul dubio confitetur, esse aliquam, sed nondum in suam venisse notitiam. Ita ei non sufficebat quicquid de anima liberanda studiosissime didicerat, sibique, vel potius aliis, nosse ac tenere videbatur. Sentiebat enim adhuc sibi deesse aliquam præstantissimam auctoritatem, quam de re tanta sequi oporteret.-Augustin. de Civitate Dei, lib. 10. c. 32.
PROP. he was sensible there was wanting some universal method of delivering men's souls, which no sect of philosophy had yet found out.
The unreasonable. ness of modern
3. This sense of the ancient and wisest philosophers is much departed from by modern deists, who contend that there was no want, no need of a revelation; that deists, in philosophy and right reason was of itself sufficiently denying able to instruct and preserve men in the practice of and use of their duty; and that nothing was to be expected from revelation. But besides what has been already intimated concerning the extreme barbarity of the present heathen world, and what the philosophers, both Greeks and Latins, have confessed concerning the state of the more civilized nations wherein they lived; I think we may safely appeal even to our adversaries themselves, whether the testimony of Christ, (without considering at present what truth and evidence it has,) concerning the immortality of the soul, and the rewards and punishments of a future state, have not had (notwithstanding all the corruptions of Christians) visibly in experience and effect a greater and more powerful influence upon the lives and actions of men than the reasonings of all the philosophers that ever were in the world:* Whether credible testimony, and the belief and authority of revelation, be not in itself as it were a light held to the consciences of stupid and careless men; and the most natural and proper means that can be imagined to awaken and rouse up many of those who would be little affected with all the strict arguments and abstract reasonings in the world. And, to bring this matter to a short issue; whether in Christian countries, (at least where Christianity is professed in any tolerable degree of purity,) the generality event of the meaner and most vulgar and igno
Οὐκ ὀλίγους, Ελληνας καὶ Βαρβάρες, σόφες καὶ ἀνοήτες, μέχρι θανάτε ἀγωνίζεσθαι ὑπὲρ Χριστιανισμοῦ, ἵν ̓ αὐτοῦ μὴ ἐξομόσωνται· ὅπερ ἐδεὶς ὑπὲρ ἄλλα δόγματος ίστορηται ποιεῖν.—Origen. advers. Cels. lib. 1.
+ Ὥστε μηκέτι κατὰ τὸ παλαιὸν βραχεῖς τινας καὶ ἀριθμῶ ληπτές, ὀςθὰς περὶ Θεῖ φέρειν δόξας· ἀλλὰ μυρία πλήθη βαρβάρων.—Euseb. Demonstrat. Evangel. lib. 3. c. 3.
Αἱ δὲ τοῦ Θεοῦ Χριστῷ μαθητευθεί σαι ἐκκλησίαι, συνεξεταζόμεναι ταῖς ὧν
rant people have not truer and worthier notions of PROP. God, more just and right apprehensions concerning, his attributes and perfections, a deeper sense of the difference of good and evil, a greater regard to moral obligations and to the plain and most necessary duties of life, and a more firm and universal expectation of a future state of rewards and punishments; than in any heathen country any considerable number of men were ever found to have had.
It may here perhaps be pretended, by modern deists, The great that the great ignorance and undeniable corruptness and use of of the whole heathen world has always been owing, divine renot to any absolute insufficiency of the light of nature itself, but merely to the fault of the several particular persons, in not sufficiently improving that light; and that deists now, in places where learning and right reason are cultivated, are well able to discover and explain all the obligations and motives of morality, without believing any thing of revelation. But this, even though it were true, (as, in the sense they intend, it by no means is; because, as has been before shown, there are several very necessary truths not possible to be discovered with any certainty by the bare light of nature; but) supposing it, I say, to be true, that all the obligations and motives of morality could possibly be discovered and explained clearly, by the mere light of nature alone, yet even this would not at all prove that there is no need of revelation: For, whatever the bare natural possibility was, it is certain in fact the wisest philosophers of old* never were able to do it to any effectual purpose, but always willingly acknowledged that they still wanted some higher assistance. And as to the παροικοῦσι δήμων ἐκκλησίαις· ὣς φωστῆρες εἰσιν ἐν κόσμῳ, Τίς γὰρ οἶκ ἂν ὁμολογήσαι, καὶ τὶς χείρες τῶν ἀπὸ τῆς ἐκκλησίας καὶ συγκρίσει τῶν βελτι όνων ἐλάτες, πολλῷ κρείττες τυγχάνειν τῶν ἐν τοῖς δήμοις ἐκκλησιῶν. [Note, this passage is both corruptly printed πολλῶν instead of πολλῷ, and also the sense of it hurt by an imperfect translation.—Orig. advers. Cels. lib. 3. Edit. Cant. p. 128.]
* See an excellent passage of Cicero to this purpose cited above.
PROP. great pretences of modern deists, it is to be observed, VII. that the clearness of moral reasonings was much improved, and the regard to a future state very much increased, even in heathen writers, after the coming of Christ. And almost all the things that are said wisely and truly by modern deists, are plainly borrowed from that revelation which they refuse to embrace, and without which they could never have been able to have said the same things. Now, indeed, when our whole duty, with its true motives, is clearly revealed to us, its precepts appear plainly agreeable to reason; and conscience readily approves what is good, as it condemns what is evil: Nay, after our duty is thus made known to us, it is easy not only to see its agreement with reason, but also to begin and deduce its obligation from reason. But had we been utterly destitute of all revealed light, then, to have discovered our duty in all points, with the true motives of it, merely by the help of natural reason, would have been a work of nicety, pains and labour; like groping for an unknown way, in the obscure twilight. What ground have any modern deists to imagine, that if they themselves had lived without the light of the gospel, they should have been wiser than Socrates, and Plato, and Cicero? How are they certain they should have made such a right use of their reason as to have discovered the truth exactly, without being any way led aside by prejudice or neglect? If their lot had been among the vulgar, how are they sure they should have been so happy, or so considerate, as not to have been involved in that idolatry and superstition which overspread the whole world? If they had joined themselves to the philosophers, which sect would they have chosen to have followed? And what book would they have resolved upon to be the adequate rule of their lives and conversations? Or, if they should have set up for themselves, how are they certain they should have been skilful and unprejudiced enough to have deduced the several branches of their duty, and ap