Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

is lehat SV

the gods in his feep: It is true, EpicTETUS“ * forbids us to regard the language of rooks and ravens but it

not, they do not speak truth : It is only, because they can foretel nothing but the breaking of our neck or the forfeiture of our estate ; which are circumstances

, days Re' that 'nówife concern us. Thus the Stoics join a philosophical enthusiasm to a religious superstition. The force of their mind, being all turned to the side of 'morabs unbent itself in that of religion 7716.3901 „311e UPLATO "Liftroduites SOCRATES affirming, that the acctilation of impiety raised against him was owing entirely to his rejeding such fables, as those of SATURN'S caftrating his father, URANUS, and Jupiter's dethroning SATURN : Yet in a subsequent dialogue I, SOCRATES confefles, that the doctrine of the mortality of the faul was the received opinion of the people. Is there here any contradiction? Yes, furely: But the contradiction is not in PLATO ; it is in the people, whose religious principles in general are always composed of the most discordant parts ; especially in an age, when superstition fate so easy and light upon them .

The ? Bir

Ench. $.1996 Y?" :

+ The Stoics, 1 own, were not quite orthodox in the established religion ; but one may fee, from these instances, that they went a great way: And the people undoubtedly went every length. KOSICEutyphro. 6 din sa

| Phædo. I XENOPHON's conduct, as related by himself, is, at once, an inconteftable proof of the general credulity of mankind in those ages, and the incoherencies, in all ages, of men's opinions in religious matters. That great captain and philofopher, the disciple of SOCRATES, and one who has delivered some of the moft refined sentiments with regard to a deity, gave all the following marks of vulgar, pagan superstition. By SOCRATIS's advice, he consulted the oracle of DELPHI, before he would engage in the expedition of CYRUS. De exped. lib. iii. p. 294. ex edit. Leuncl. Sees dream the night after the generals were seized; which he pays great regard to, but thinks ambiguous. Id. p. 295. He and the whole army regard faceging as a very lucky omen. Id. p. 300. Has another dream, when he

[ocr errors]

Hh 3

[ocr errors]

5

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

which

was

The same CICERO, who affected, in his own family, to appear a devout religionist, makes no scruple, in a public court of judicature, of treating the doctrine of a future state as a most ridiculous fable, to which no body could give any attention*, SALLUST t represents CÆsar as speaking the same language in the open senate to

It'T But

949'zininos comes to the river CENTRITES, which his fellow genera! ;CHI ROSO PHY, also pays great regard to. Id. lib, iv. P. 323. The Greeks suffering from in a cold north wind, facrifice to it, and the historian observes, that it immed'ately abated. Id. p. 329. XENOPHON consults the sacrifices in fecret, before he would form any resolution with himself about fettling a colonys : Lib. v. p. 359. He himself a very skilful aygur. Idi Pozzá! Is deter... mined by the vi&ims to refuse the sole command of the army offered him. Lib. vi. p. 273. CLEANDER, the SPARTAN, though very desirous of it, refuses it for the same reason. Id. p. 392.

Xerožio menticns an old dream with the interpretation given him, when he first joined CYRUS. p. 373. Mentions also the place of HERCULES's descent into hell as believing it, and says

, the marks of it are till remaining Id. p. 375. Had almoft ftarved the army rather than lead to the field against the auspices. Id. p. 382, 383. His friend, EUCLIDES, the augur, would not believe that he had brought no money from the expedition; till he (EUCLIDES) facrificed, and then he saw the matter clearly in the ExtasLib. vii. p. 425. The same philosopher, proposing a 'project of mines for the increase of the ATHENIAN revenues, advises them first to consult the oracle. De rat. red. p. 392. That all this devotion was not a farce, in order to serve a political purpose, appears both from the facts themselves, and from the genius of that age, when little or nothing could be gained by hype.' crisy. Besides, XENOPHON, as appears from his Memorabilia, was a kind of heretic in those times, which no political devotee ever is. It is for the same reason, I maintain, that NEWTON, LOCKI, CLARKE, &c. being Arians or Socinions, were very sincere in the creed they professed :, And I always oppose this argument to some libertines, who will needs have it, that it was impossible but that these great philosophers must have been hye pocrites.

* Pro CLUENTIO. cap. 61, + De bello CAȚILIN. I CICERO (Tusc. Quæft.) lib. 1. cap. 5, 6. and SENECA (Epift. 24.) aş also JUVENAL (Satyr 2.) maintain that there is no boy or old woman sa șidiculous as to believe the poets in their accounts of a future state. Why then does LUCRETIUS so highly exalt his master for freeing us from these terrors ? Perhaps the generality of mankind were then in the disposition of CEPHALUS in PLATO (de Rep. lib. i.) who while he was young and

healthful

[ocr errors]

the great

national religion hung loose upon the minds of men,

But that all these freedoms implied not a total and universal infidelity and scepticism amongst the people, is too apparent to be denied. Though some parts of the

Tonton other parts adhered more closely to them: And it was

eat businels' of the sceptical philosophers to show, that there was no more foundation for one than for the other. This is the artifice of Cotta in the dialogues concerning the nature of the gods. He refutes the whole system of mythology by leading the orthodox, gradually, from the more momentous stories, which were believed, to the more frivolous, which every one ridiculed : From the gods to the goddesses; from the goddesles to the nymphs ; from the nymphs to the fawns and fatyrs. His master CARNE ADES, had employed the same method of reafuning *

Upon the whole, the greatest and most observable differences between a traditional, mythological religion, and a systematical, scholaftical one, are two : The former is often more reasonable, , as consisting only of a multitude of stories, which, however groundless, imply no express ab, furdity and demonstrative,,contradiction i and sits also so easy and light on men's minds, that though it may be as universally received, it makes no such deep impression on the affections and understanding.

[ocr errors]

Sect, XIII. Impious conceptions of the divine nature in

most popular religions of both kinds..

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

The primary religion of mankind arises chiefly from an anxious fear of future events; and what ideas will:

healthful could ridicule these stories ; but as soon as he became ofd and in.
firm, began to entertain apprehensions of their truth. This, we máy ob-
ferve, not to be unusual even at present.
SexT EMPIR. adverf. MATHEM, lib, viia

naturally

[ocr errors]

Hh 4

naturally be entertained of invisible, unknown powers, while men lie under, dismal apprehenfions of any kind, may easily be conceived. Everysimage of vengeance feverity, cruelty, and malice mult occur and mufatges ment the ghastliness and horror, which oppreffes-theamazed religionift. A panic having once-seized the mind, the active fancy ftill farthér multiplies the objectso of terror ; while that profound darkness, or, what is worse, that glimmering light, with which we are invironed, represents the spectres of divinity under the most dreadful appearances imaginable. And no idea of pero verse wickednefs can be framed, which those terrified devotees do not readily, without scruple, apply to their deity.

This appears the natural state of religion. when furę veyed in one light. But if we consider, -on the other : hand, that spirit of praise and culogy, which neceffaride bas place in all religions, and which is the consequence of these very terrors, we must expect a quite contrary fystem of theology to prevail. Every, virtue, every=ext? cellence, must be ascribed to the divinity, and no exaggeration be deemed sufficient to reach those perfectione, with which he is endowed. Whatever Itrains of panees gyric can be inyented, are immediately embraced, with. put consulting any arguments or phænomena. And it is esteemed a fufficient confirmation of them, that they give us more magnificent ideas of the divine object of our worship and adoration.

S091909. - 13: Here therefore is a kind of contradiction between the different principles of human nature, which enter into. religion. Our natural terrors present the notion of a de. vilish and malicious deity : Our propensity to praise leads us to acknowledge an excellent and divine. And the influence of these opposite principles are various ac-" çording to the different fituation of the human under* Handing:

In very barbarous and ignorant nations, such as the AFRICANS and INDIANS, nay eyen the JAPONESE, who can form no extenfive ideas of power and knowledge, worthip may be paid to a being, whom they confess to be wicked and deteftable; though they may be cautious, perhaps; of pronouncing this jädgment of him in public, or in his temple, where he may be fupposed to hear their reproaches.

Such rude, imperfect ideas of the Divinity adhere long to-aff idolaters, and it may safely be affirmed, that the GREEKS themfelves never got entirely rid of them. It is remarked by XENOPHON*, in praise of SOCRATES, that that philosopher assented not to the vulgar opinion, which supposed the gods to know some things, and be ignoraat of others : He maintained that they knew every thing; what was done, said, or even thought. But as this was a ftrain of philosophy # much above the conception of his countrymen, we need not be furprized, if very frankly, in their books and conversation, they blamed the deities, whom they worshipped in their temples. It is observable, that HERODOTUS in particular fcruples not, in may paffages, to ascribe envy to the gods; a sentiment, of all others, the most suitable to a mean and devilith nature. The pagan hymns, however, fung in public worship, contained nothing but epithets of praife ; even while the actions ascribed to the gode were the most barbarous and detestable. When TimoTHEUS, the poet, recited a hymn to Diana, where he enumerated, with the greatest eulogies, all the actions and attributes of thật cruel, capricious goddess : ob sie 503107

Mem. lib. 1. vizuqaru # It was considered among the antients, as a very extraordinarys, philofophical parados, that the fresence of the göds was not confined to the beapenay, but w was extended every where; as we learn from LUCIA. Hermes fimus fove De seelis

your

May

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »