Page images

of those philosophers God is a mind, zwersoredo not an abstract idea compounded of inconsistencies and prescinded from all real things, as some moderns understand abstraction ; but a really existing spirit, distinct or separate from all sensible and corporeal beings. And although the Stoics are represented as holding a corporeal deity, or that the very system of the world is God, yet it is certain they did not, at bottom, difsent from the forementioned doctrine ; v inasmuch as they supposed the world to be an animal, (a) consisting of soul or mind as well as body,

324. This notion was derived from the Pythagoreans, who held the world, as Timæus Locrus teacheth, to be one perfect animal, endued with foul and reason : but then they believed it to have been generated: whereas the Stoics looked on the world as the supreme God, including therein mind or intellect. For the elementary fire, or, if one may so speak, the animal spirit of the world, seemeth, according to them, to have been the vehicle of the soul (b), the vehicle of intellect or vos; since they styled the Divinity aug voegòv (c), or intellectual fire.

325. The Ægyptians, if we may credit the Hermaic writings, maintained God to be all things, not only actual but posible. He is Ityled by them, that which is made and that which is unmade. And therein it is said, shall I praise thee for those things thou haft made manifeft, or for the things thou haft hidden ? therefore, in their fense, to manifest, was to create ; the things created having been before hidden in God.

326. Now whether the võs be abstracted from the sensible world, and considered by it self, as. distinct from, and presiding over the created fyf(a) 276. 279. (6) 277, 284.

(c) 272.


tem, or whether the whole universe, including mind together with the mundane body, is conceived to be God (d), and the creatures to be partial manifestations of the divine essence, there is no atheism in either case, whatever misconceptions there may be; so long as mind or intellect is understood to preside over, govern, and conduct the whole frame of things. And this was the general prevailing opinion among the philosophers.

327. Nor if any one, with Aristotle in his Metaphysics, should deny that God knows any thing without himself; seeing that God comprehends all things, could this be justly pronounced an atheistical opinion. Nor even was the following notion of the fame author to be accounted atheism, to wit, that there are fome things beneath the knowledge of God, as too mean, base, and vile; however wrong this notion may be, and unworthy of the divine perfection.

328. Might we not conceive that God may be said to be all in divers senses; as he is the cause and origine of all beings; as the vos is the vorld, a doctrine both of Platonics and Peripatetics (C); as the vâs is the place of all forms, and as it is the fame which comprehends and orders (f) and suftains the whole mundane system. Aristole declares, that the divine force or influence permeates the intire universe (8) and that what the pilot is in a ship, the driver in a chariot, the præcentor in à choir, the law in a city, the general in an army, the same God is in the world. This he amply sets forth in his book De mundo, a treatise which ha. ving been anciently ascribed to him, ought not to be set aside from the difference of style, which (as Patricius rightly observes) being in a letter to

(d) 300.


(e) 309, 310.

(f) 320.

(8) 173.
a king,

a king, might well be supposed to differ from the other dry and crabbed parts of his writings.

329. And although there are some expressions to be met with in the philosophers, even of the Platonic and Aristotelic fects, which speak of God as mixing with, or pervading all nature and all the elements; yet this must be explained by force and not by extension, which was never attributed to the mind (b) either by Aristotle or Plato. · This they always affirmed to be incorporeal: and, as Plotinus remarks, incorporeal things are distant each from other not by place, but (to use his expression) by alterity.

330. These disquisitions will probably seem dry and useless, to such readers as are accustomed to consider only sensible objects. The employment of the mind on things purely intellectual is to moft men irksome: whereas the sensitive powers, by constant ufe acquire strength. Hence, the objects of sense more forcibly affect us (k), and are too often counted the chief good. For these things men fight, cheat and scramble. Therefore, in order to tame mankind and introduce a sense of virtue, the best humane means is to exercise their understanding, to give them a glympse of another world, superior to the sensible, and while they take pains to cherish and maintain the animal life, to teach them not to neglect the intellectual.

331. Prevailing studies are of no small confequence to a state, the religion, manners and civil government of a country ever taking some bias from it's philosophy, which affects not only the minds of its professors and students, but also the opinions of all the better sort and the practise of the whole people, remotely and consequentially, indeed, though not inconsiderably. : Have not the (6) 290, 293, 297, 319. (k) 264, 294.


polemic and scholastic philosophy been observed to produce controversies in law and religion ? And have not Fatalism and Sadducism gained ground, during the general passion for the corpuscularian and mechanical philosophy, which hath prevailed for about a century ? This indeed might usefully enough have employed some share of the leisure and curiosity of inquisitive persons. But when it entered the seminaries of learning as a necessary accomplishment, and most important part of education, by engrossing men's thoughts, and fixing their minds fo much on corporeal objects, and the laws of motion, it hath, however undesignedly, indirectly, and by accident, yet not a little indisposed them for spiritual, moral, and intellectual matters. Certainly had the philosophy of Socrates and Pythagoras prevailed in this age, among those who think themselves too wife to receive the dictates of the gospel, we should not have seen interest take so general and fast hold on the minds of men, nor public spirit reputed to be gevaidv évýletav, a generous folly, among those who are reckoned to be the most knowing as well as the most getting part of mankind.

332. It might very well be thought serious trifling to tell my readers that the greatest men had ever an high esteem for Plato; whose writings are the touchstone of a hafty and shallow mind; whose philosophy has been the admiration of ages; which supplied patriots, magistrates, and lawgivers to the most fourishing states, as well as fathers to the church, and doctors to the schools. Albeit in these days, the depths of that old learning are rarely fathomed, and yet it were happy for these lands, if our young nobility and gentry instead of modern maxims would imbibe the notions of the great men of antiquity. But, in these free thinking times many an empty head is


Thook at Aristotle and Plato, as well as at the holy scriptures. And the writings of those celebrated ancients are by most men treated on a foot, with the dry and barbarous lucubrations of the schoolmen. It may be modestly presumed, there are not many among us, even of those who are called the better sort, who have more sense, virtue, and love of their country than Cicero, who in a letter to Atticus could not forbear exclaiming, O Socrates et Socratici viri! nunquam vobis gratiam referam. Would to God many of our countrymen had the same obligations to those Socratic writers. Certainly where the people are well educated, the art of piloting a state is best learned from the writings of Plato. But among bad men void of discipline and education, Plato, Pythagoras and Aristotle themselves, were they living, could do but little good. Plato hath drawn a very humorous and instructive picture of such a state ; which I shall not transcribe for certain reasons. But whoever has a mind, may see it in page 78. of the second tome of Aldus's edition of Plato's works.

333. Proclus, in the first book of his commentary on the theology of Plato observes that, as in the mysteries, those who are initiated, at first meet with manifold and multiform Gods, but being entered and thoroughly initiated they receive the divine illumination and participate the very deity; in like manner, if the foul look abroad she beholds the shadows and images of things 'but returning into herself the unravels and beholds her own effence: At first the feemeth only to behold her felf: But having penetrated farther she discovers the mind. And again, still farther advancing into the innermost fanctuary of the foul she contemplates the Jewu grévos. And this, he saith, is the most excellent of all human acts, in the silence and repose of the faculties of the soul to tend upwards to the very divinity ; to approach and


« EelmineJätka »