Page images
PDF
EPUB

felves so far as they are perceptible to our senses, or in the same sense as motion is said to be action. Accordingly, we find a religious regard was paid to fire, both by Greeks and Romans, and indeed by most, if not all, the nations of the world.

'183. The worship of Vefta at Rome was, in truth, the worship of fire. .

Nec tu aliud Veftam quam vivam intellige fam:: .mam, faith Ovid in his Fasti. And as in old Rome the eternal fire was religiously kept by virgins, so in Greece, particularly at Delphi and Athens, it was kept hy widows. It is well known that Vulcan or Fire was worshipped with great diftinction by the Ægyptians. The Zabii or Sabeans are also known to have been worshippers of fire. It appears too from the Chaldæan oracles, that fire was regarded as divine by the sages of that nation. And it is supposed that Ur of the Chaldæans was so called from the Hebrew word fignifying fire, because fire was publickly worfhipped in that city. That a religious worship was paid to fire by the ancient Persians and their Ma. gi, is attested by all antiquity. And the sect of Persees, or old Gentils, of whom there are conGiderable remains at this day both in the Mogols country and in Persia, doth testify the same.

184. It doth not seem that their proftrations before the perpetual fires, preserved with great care in their Pyreia, or fire temples, were merely a civil respect, as Dr. Hyde would have it thought. Although he brings good proof that they do not invoke the fire on their altars, or pray to it, or call it God: and that they acknowledge a supreme invisible deity. Civil respects are paid to things

as

[ocr errors]

as related to civil power : but fuch relation doth not appear in the present case. It shou'd seem therefore, that they worship God as present in the fire, which they worship or reverence, not ultimately or for it self, but relatively to the supreme being. Which it is not unlikely was else. where the case at first; though the practice of men, especially of the vulgar, might in length of time degenerate from the original institution, and rest in the object of sense..

185. Doctor Hyde, in his history of the res ligion of the ancient Persians, would have it thought, that they borrowed the use and reverence of perpetual fires, from the Jewish practice, pre. scribed in the Levitical law, of keeping a per. petual fire burning on the altar. Whether that was the case or not, thus much one may venture to say, it seems probable that whatever was the original of this custom among the Persians, the like customs among the Greeks and Romans were derived from the same source. .

186. It must be owned there are many pas, fages in holy scripture (a), that would make one think, the supreme being was in a peculiar manner present and manifest in the element of fire. Not to insist that God is more than once said to be a consuming fire, which might be understood in a metaphorical sense, the divine apparitions were by fire, in the bush, at mount Sinai, on the tabernacle, in the cloven tongues. God is represented in the inspired writings, as descending in fire, as attended by fire, or with fire going before him, Celestial things, as angels, chariots, and such like phænomena are invested with fire, light, and splendor. Ezekiel in his visions beheld, . (a). 179. .' '

fire

fire and brightness, lamps, burning coals of fire, and flashes of lightening. In a vision of Daniel the throne of God appeared like a fiery Aame, and his wheels like burning fire. Also a fiery fame issued and came forth from before him.

187. At the transfiguration, the apostles faw our Saviour's face shining as the sun, and his rai. - ment white as light, also a lucid cloud or body

of light, out of which the voice came; which visible light and splendor was, not many centuries ago, maintained by the Greek church, 'to have been divine, and uncreated, and the very glory of God: as may be seen in the history wrote by the emperor John Cantacuzene. And of late years bishop Patrick gives it as his opinion, that in the beginning of the world, the Shecinah or divine prefence, which was then frequent and ordinary, appeared by light or fire. In commenting on that passage, where Cain is said to have gone out from the presence of the Lord, the bishop observes, that if Cain after this turned a downright idolater, as many think, it is very likely he introduced the worship of the sun, as the best re- ; femblance he could find of the glory of the Lord, which was wont to appear in a faming light. It would be endlefs to enumerate all the passages of holy fcripture, which confirm and illustrate this notion, or reprefent the Deity as appearing and operating by fire. The misconstruction of which might possibly have misled the Gnoftics, Basilidians, and other ancient heretics into an opinion, that Jesus Christ was the visible corporeal fun.

188. We have seen, that in the most remote ages and countries, the vulgar as well as the learn. ed, the inftitutions of lawgivers as well as the reasonings of philosophers, have ever considered

the

the element of fire in a peculiar light, and treated it with more than common regard, as if it were something of a very singular and extraordinary nature. Nor are there wanting authors of principal account among the moderns, who entertain like notions concerning fire, especially among those who are most conversant in that element, and should seem best acquainted with it.

189. Mr. Homberg the famous modern chemist, who brought that art to so great perfection, holds the substance of light or fire to be the true chemic principal fulphur (a), and to extend it self throughout the whole universe. It is his opinion that this is the only active principle. That mixed with various things it formeth several sorts of natural productions, with salts making oyl, with earth bitumen, with mercury metal. That this principle of sulphur, fire, or the substance of light, is in it self imperceptible, and only becomes sensible as it is joined with some other principle, which ferves as a vehicle for it. That, although it be the most active of all things, yet it is at the same time the most firm bond and cement to combine and hold the principles together, and give form to the mixed bodies. And, that in the analysis of bodies it is always loft, escaping the skill of the artist, and passing through the closest vessels. .

190, Boerhaave, Niewenty't, and divers other moderns are in the same way of thinking. They with the ancients diftinguish a pure, elementary, invisible fire from the culinary, or that which appears in ignited bodies (6). This last they will not allow to be pure fire. The pure fire is to be difcerned by it's effects alone ; such as heat, dilatation of all solid bodies, and rarefaction of fluids, (a) 129., (6) 163, 166.

the

the fegregating heterogeneous bodies, and congregating those that are homogeneous. Thać therefore which smoakes and flames is not pure fire, but that which is collected in the focus of a mirróur or burning glass. This fire seems the source of all the operations in nature: without it nothing either vegetates, or putrefies, lives or moves or ferments, is diffolved or compounded or altered, throughout this whole natural world in which we fubfift. Were it not for this, the whole wou'd be one great stupid inanimate mass. But this active element is supposed to be every where, and always present, imparting different degrees of life, heat, and motion, to the various animals, vegetables, and other natural productions, as well as to the elements themselves, wherein they are pro. duced and nourished. '191. As water acts upon falt, or aqua fortis upon iron, fo fire diffolves all other bodies. Fires air, and water are all three menftruums : but the two laft seem to derive all their force and activity from the first (a). And indeed there seems to be, originally or ultimately, but one menftruum in nature, to which all other menftruums, may be reduced. Acid salts are a menftruum, but their force and distinct powers are from sulphur. Confidered as pure, or in themselves, they are all of the same nature. But, as obtained by distillation, they are constantly joined with some sul. phur, which characterizech and cannot be feparated from them. This is the doctrine of mono fieur Homberg. But what is it that charecterize eth or differencech the fulphurs themselves ? If sulphur be the substance of light, as that author will have it, whence is it that animal, vege(a) 149.

tables

« EelmineJätka »