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shook, at Aristbtle and Plato, as well as at the hftly fcriptures. 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 fort, 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! Bunquam vobis gratiam reseram. Would to God many of our countrymen had the fame 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 the seventy eighth page 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 she unravels and beholds her own essence: At first she seemeth only to behold her self: But having penetrated farther she discovers the mind. And again* still farther advancing into the innermost fanctuary of the soul she contemplates the $tuv yiw. And this, be faith, is the most excellent of all human acts, in the silence and repose of the faculties of the foul to tend upwards to the very divinity; to approach and
be be closely joined with that which is ineffable afid supe* perior to all beings. When come so high as the first principle she ends her journey and rests. Such is the doctrine of Proclus.
334. But Socrates in the first Alcibiades teacheth on the other hand, that the contemplation of God is the proper means to know or understand Our own foul. As the eye* faith he, looking stedfastly at the visive part or pupil of another eye beholds it's self, even Co "the foul beholds and understands her self, while she contemplates the deity which is wisdom and vertue or like thereunto. In the Phædon Socrates speaks of God as being rxyxhii and To Jsavf/i), the good and rhe decent: Plotinus represents God as order; Aristotle as law.
335. It may seem perhaps to those, who have been taught to discourse about subfiratums, more reasonable and pious to attribute to the Deity a more substantial being, than the notional entities of wisdom, order, law, vertue, or goodness, which being only complex ideas, framed and put together by the understanding, are its own creatures, and have nothing substantial, real, or independent in them. But it must "be considered, that in the Platonic system, order, vertue, law, goodness, and wisdom are not creatures of the foul of man, but innate and originally existent therein, not asan accident in a substance, butas lighc to enlighten, and as a guide to govern. In Plato's "style, the term idea doth not merely signify an inert inactive object of the understanding, but is used as synonymous with «<tiov and cause and principle. According to that philosopher, goodness, beauty, vertue and such like, are not figments of the mind* nor mere mixed modes, nor yet abstract ideas in the rrioderrt sense, but the most real beings, intellectual and unchangeable ; and therefore more real than the fleeting transient objects of sense (b), which wanting
(«) 26c, 220. I*) 306.
X stability stability cannot be subjects of science (<}, much les* of intellectual knowledge.
336. By Parmenicles, Timæus, and Plato a distinction was made, as hath been observed already, between ge'nitum and ens. The former fort is always a generating or in fieri (e), but never exists, because it never continues the fame, being in a constant change, ever perishing and producing. By entia they understand things remote from sense, invisible and intellectual, which never changing are still the fame, and may therefore be slid truly to exist: O'u<j7«, which is generally translated substance, but more properly essence, was not thought to belong to things sensible and corporeal, which have no stability ; but rather to intellectual ideas, tho' discerned with more difficulty, and making less impression on a mind stupificd and immersed in animal lise, than gross objects that continually beset and sollicit our senses.
337. The most refined humane intellect exerted to its utmost reach can only seize some impersect glympses (/) of the divine ideas, abstracted from all things corporeal, sensible, and imaginable. Therefore Pythagorasand Plato treated them in a mysterious manner, concealing rather than exposing them to vulgar eyes; so far were they from thinking, that those abstract things, altho' the most real, were the fittest to influence common minds, or become principles of knowledge, not to fay duty and virtue, to the generality of mankind.
338. Aristotle and his followers have made a rrionstrous representation os the Platonic ideas; and some of Plato's own school have said very odd things concerning them. But if that philosopher himself was not read only, but 'studied also with care, and made his own interpreter, I believe the prejudice that now lies ag.iinst him would soon wear off or be even
f/J 264, 266, 29-• (,)30f, 306. (/) 3r3, Jjo. Xs) 3C9. S'-v
conconverted into a high esteem for those exalted notions and fine hints, that sparkle and shine throughout his writings; which seem to contain not only the most valuable learning of Athens and Greece, but also a treasure of the most remote traditions and early science of the east.
339. In the Timæus of Plato mention is made of ancient persons, authors of traditions, and the offspring of the gods. It is very remarkable, that in the account of the creation contained in the fame piece, it is faid that God was pleased with his work, and that the night is placed before the day. The more we think, the more disficult shall we find it to conceive, how mere man, grownup in the vulgar habits of lise, and weighed down by sensuality, should ever be able to arrive at science, without some tradition (b) or teaching,which might either sow the seeds of knowledge, or call forth and excite those latent seeds that were originally sown in the soul.
340. Humane souls in this low situation, bordering on mere animal life, bear the weight and see through the dusk of a gross atmosphere, gathered from wrong judgments daily passed, false opinions daily learned, and early habits of an older date than either judgment or opinion. Through such a medium the sharpest eye cannot see clearly (k). And if by some extraordinary effort the mind should surmount this dusky region, and snatch a glympse of pure light, she is soon drawn backward and depressed by the heaviness of the animal nature, to which she is chained. And if again she chanceth, amidst the agitation of wild fancies and strong affections, to spring upwards, a second relapse speedily succeeds into this region of darkness and dreams.
341. Nevertheless, as the mind gathers strength by repeated acts, we should not despond, but con, tinue to exert the prime and flower of our faculties^
(f>) 298, 301,303. (k) z92,293,294.
X x still
... / r64 )
.i^Ul recovering, and reaching on, and struggling into the upper region, whereby our natural weakness and blindness may be in some degree remedied, and a ^aste attained of truth and intellectual lise. Beside the constant prevailing opinion of the greatest men of antiquity, that there is both an univerfal spirit author of life and motion, and an univerfal mind enlightening and ordering all things, it was a received tenet among them, that there is also To %t or TeiyaSor (a), -fyhich they looked on as the sons deitatis, the first hypostasis in the divinity.
342. The one or To %*, being immutable and indivisible, always the lame and entire, was therefore thought to exist truly and originally, and other things only lo far as they are one and the fame, by participation of the To ev.This gives unity,stability,reality to thing«fi). Plato describes God, as Moses, from his being. According to both, God is he who truly is, Com-*? an. Change and division were esteemed desects or bad. Evil scatters, divides, destroys: Good, on the contrary, produceth concord and union, assembles, combines, persects, and preserves entire. The several beings which compose the universe arepartsof the fame system, they combine to carry on one end, and perfect one whole. And this aptness and concurrence thereunto surnishes the partial particular idea of good in the distinct creatures. Hence it might have come to pass, that rgiyaUw and To' tv were regarded as one and the fame.
343. Light and sight (faith Plato in the sixth book of his Republic) are not the fun; even so truth and knowledge are not the good itself, altho* they approach thereunto. And again, what the sun is in a visible pl.ice with respect to sight and things seen, that fame is rtiyati* or good in an intelligible place, with respect to understanding and things understood.