Page images

176. Theophraftus, in his book De igne, distinguishesh between heat and fire. The first he considers as a principle or cause, not that which appeareth to sense as a passion or accident existing in a subject, and which is in truth the effect of that unseen principle. And it is remarkable, that he refers the treating of this invisible fire or heat, to the investigation of the first causes. Fire, the principle, is neither generated nor destroyed, is every where and always present (a); while its effects in different times and places shew themselves more or less, and are very various, foft, and cherishing, or violent and destructive, terrible or agreeable, conveying good and evil, growth and decay, life and death, throughout the mundane system.

177. It is allowed by all, that the Greeks derived much of their philofophy from the Eastern nations. And Heraclitus is thought by fome to have drawn his principles from Orpheus, as Orpheus did from the Ægyptians; or, as others write, he had been auditor of Hippalus a Pythagorean, who held the same notion of fire, and might have derived it from Egypt by his master Pythagoras, who had travelled into Ægypt, and been instructed by the sages of that nation. One of whose tenets it was, that fire was the principle of all action; which is agreeable to the doctrine of the Stoics, that the whole of things is administered by a fiery intellectual spirit. In the Asclepian Dialogue, we find this notion, that all parts of the world vegetate by a fine subtil æther, which acts as an engine or instrument, subject' to the will of the supreme God.

178. As the Platonists held intellect to be lodged in soul, and soul in æther (b); so it palleth

(6) 157 L


(a) 43

[ocr errors]

for a doctrine of Trismegistus in the Pimander, that mind is cloathed by soul, and soul by spirit. Therefore as the animal spirit of man, being subtil and luminous, is the immediate tegument of the human soul, or that wherein and whereby she acts'; even so the spirit of the world, that active fiery æthereal substance of light, that permeates and animates the whole system, is supposed to cloath the soul, which cloachs the mind of the universe.

179. The Magi likewise faid of God, that he had light for his body and truth for his soul. And in the Chaldaic oracles, all things are supposed to be governed by a műe voegov or intellectual fire. And in the same oracles, the creative mind is said to be cloathed with fre, “Εσσάμενος πυρί πύρ, which oriental reduplication of the word fire, seems to imply the extreme purity and force thereof. Thus also in the Psalms, Thou art clothed with light as with a garment. Where the word rendered light might have been rendered fire, the Hebrew letters being the same with those in the word which fignifies fire, all the difference being in the pointing, which is justly counted a late invention. That other scripture sentence is remarkable : Who maketh his ministers a faming fire; which might, perhaps, be rendered, more agreeably to the context, as well as consistently with the Hebrew, after this manner: Who maketh Aaming fire his minifters; and the whole might run thus: Who maketh the winds his messengers, and faming fire his minifters.

180. A notion of something divine in fire, animating the whole world, and ordering its feveral parts, was a tenet of very general extent (a),

(a) 156, 157, 163, 166, 167, 168, 170, 172, 173, 174, 175, 177, 88c


[ocr errors]

being embraced in the most distant times and places, even among the Chinese themselves; who make tien, æther, or heaven, the sovereign principle, or cause of all things, and teach, that the celestial virtue, by them called li, when joined to corporeal substance, doth fashion, distinguish, and specificate all natural beings. This li of the Chinese seems to answer the forms of the Peripatetics. And both bear analogy to the foregoing philosophy of fire.

181. The heaven is supposed pregnant with virtues and forms, which constitute and discriminate the various species of things. And we have more than once observed, that, as the light, fire, or celestial æther, being parted by refracting or reflecting bodies, produceth variety of colours ; even so, that fame apparently uniform substance, being parted and secreted by the attracting and repelling powers of the divers secretory ducts of plants and animals, that is, by natural chemistry, produceth or imparteth the various specific properties of natural bodies. Whence the tastes and odours and medicinal virtues so various in vegetables.

182. The tien is considered and adored by the learned Chinese, as living and intelligent æther, the rūg voeqor of the Chaldæans and the Stoics. And the worship of things celestial, the sun and stars, among the eastern nations less remote, was on account of their fiery nature, their heat and light, and the influence thereof. Upon these accounts, the sun was looked on by the Greek theologers as the spirit of the world, and the power of the world. The cleansing quality, the light and heat of fire are natural symbols of purity, knowledge, and power, or, if I may fo say, the things them


[ocr errors]

selves, fo far as they are perceptible to our fenfes, 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 Vesta at Rome was, in truth, the worship of fire. Nec tu aliud Veftam quam vivam intellige flam

mam, faith Ovid in his Fafti. And as in old Rome the eternal fire was religiously kept by virgins, so in Greece, particularly at Delphi and Athens, it was kept by widows. It was well known that Vulcan, or Fire, was worshipped with great di, stinction 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 fages 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 worshipped in that city. That a religious worship was paid to fire by the ancient Persians and their Magi, is attested by all antiquity. And the sect of Persees, or old Gentils, of whom there are confi. derable remains at this day both in the Mogol's 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 related to civil power: but such relation doth not appear in the present case. It should seem therefore, that they worship God as present in the fire, which they worship or reverence, not ultimately or for itself, but relatively to the supreme being. Which it is not unlikely was elsewhere 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 religion of the ancient Persians, would have it thought, that they borrowed the use and reverence of perpetual fires, from the Jewish practice prescribed in the Levitical law, of keeping a perpetual 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 fame source.

186. It must be owned there are many pafsages in holy fcripture (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 Luch like phænonena are invested with fire, light, and splendor. Ezekiel in his visions beheld

[ocr errors]

(a) 179.

« EelmineJätka »