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polemic and fcholastic philosophy been observed to produce controversies in law and religion? And have not Fatalism and Sadducism gained ground, during the general passion for the corpufcularian and mechanical philosophy, which hath prevailed for about a century ? This indeed might usefully enough have employed fome share of the leisure and curiosity of inquisitive perfons. But when it entered the seminaries of learning as a necessary accomplishment, and most important part of education, by engroffing men's thoughts, and fixing their minds so much on corporeal objects, and the laws of motion, it hath, however undefignedly, indirectly, and by accident, yet not a little indisposed them for fpiritual, moral, and intellectual matters. Certainly had the philosophy of Socrates and Pythagoras prevailed in this age, among thofe who think themselves too wise to receive the dictates of the gospel, we should not have seen interest take fo general and fast hold on the minds of men, nor public spirit reputed to be gevvarav žuýb nav, à 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 ferious 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 moft Aourishing 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 cur young nobility and gentry instead of modern maxims would imbibe che 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 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 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 mrind, 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 inysteries, 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 soul look abroad she beholds the shadows and images of things ; but returning into herself she unravels and beholds her own effence: At first the seemeth only to behold her self: But having penetrated farther she discovers the mind. And again, still farther advancing into the innermost sanctuary of the soul she contemplates the Jewu yévos. And this, he faith, 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
The fo Particinated the Godsted, and
be closely joined with that which is ineffable and füpeperior 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 soul. As the eye, faith he, looking stedfastly at the visive part or pupil of another eye beholds it's self, even so the soul 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 ráyafov and to Seov(a), the good and the decent : Plotinus represents God as order ; Aristotle as law.
335. It may seem perhaps to those, who have been taught .to discourse about substratums, more reasonable and pious to attribute to the Deity a more subs ftantial 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, vera cue, law, goodness, and wisdom are not creatures of the soul of man, but innate and originally exiftent therein, not as an accident in a substance, butas light to enlighten, and as a guide to govern. In Plato's style, the term idea doch not merely signify an inertinactive object of the understanding, but is used as synonymous with Sitiov and sexy, 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 modern fense, but the most real beings, intellectual and unchangeable ; and therefore more real than the feeting transient objects of fenfe (b), which wanting * (a)260, 220. (8 306.
ftability cannot be subjects of lcience (c), much less of intellectual knowledge.
336. By Parmenides, Timæus, and Plato a distinction was made, as hath been observed already, between genitum and 'ens. The former fort is always generating or in fieri (e), but never exists, because it never continues the same, 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 same, and may therefore be said truly to exist : ouría, 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 stupified and immersed in animal life, than gross objects that con: tinually beset and follicit our senses.
337. The most refined humane intellect exerted to its utmost reach can only seize some imperfect glympfes ) of the divine ideas, abstracted from all things corporeal, sensible, and imaginable. Therefore Pythagoras and Plato treated them in a mysterious manner, concealing rather than expofing them to vulgar eyes; fo far were they from thinking, that those abfract 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 monstrous reprefentation of the Platonic ideas ; and fome of Plato's own school have said very odd things concerning them. But if that philosopher himfelf was not read only, but ftudied also with care, and made his own interpreter, I believe the prejudice that now Jies against him would foon wear off (8) or be even
(4) 264, 266, 297. (e) 304, 306. () 313, 330. (8) 309, 313.
converted 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 cience · of the east. 2. 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 same piece, it is said that God was pleased with his work, and that the night is placed before the day. The more we think, the more difficult shall we find it to conceive, how mere man, grown up in the vulgar habits of life, and weighed down by sensuality, should ever be able to arrive at science, without some tradition (b) or teaching, which might eicher sow the seeds of know, ledge, or call forth and excite those latent feeds chac were originally sown in the soul. · 340. Humane souls in this low situation, border: ing on mere animal life, bear the weight and see through the dulk 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 sharpeft 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 the 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 defpond, but continue to exert the prime and flower of our ficulties, . (h) 298, 301, 302. (k) 292, 293, 294.