« PreviousContinue »
guide of life, the standard of virtue, If anyone can find reasons of the path to happiness."
morality or of piety, motives to virtue, We shall now hear the second or sources of joy in this school, he school—the Italic. Pythagoras him- must excel the ingenious Ovid himself, the great Grecian father of the self, who had to amend it in one or Metempsichosis, and his clistinguished two points to suit the licentiousness pupil, the Locrian Timæus, have of his own poetry. If not elegantly, opened the mysteries of this line in he is correctly, translated in the foltheir leading differential attributes. lowing lines, taken from his 15th This school believed in souls, and book :-taught their immortality too. But
“Oh! you whom horrors of cold death affright, curious souls they were, and unen Why fear you Styx, vain name! and endless night, viable their immortality. “ The soul The dreams of poets, and feign'd miseries of the world," said they, “ is an im
Of forged hell, whether last Hames surprise
Or age devour your bodies: they ne'er grieve, mortal soul, and human souls are but Nor sufler pain. Our suls for ever live, emanations from it-to which, after Yet everinore their ancient houses leave some ages of transmigrations, they
To live in new, which them as guests rec-ive." return and are reabsorbed.” This is But need we ask, How can human a miniature of the darling peculiarity souls enjoy or suffer any thing with of Pythagoreanism. These emanation a reference to the past, having first souls were, by an insuperable ne- lost every feeling of personal identity ? cessity, to make the tour of some de- This school, then, was as ineffectual finite number of human bodies, clean a guide of life—as whimsical a stanand unclean ; and on their return to dard of virtue-as fallacious a way of the anima mundi, to lose their indi- | happiness, as the Eleatic. viduality and identity, and to be amal | There yet remains another school gamated with it. This soul of the —the Ionic school — more ancient, world, moreover, was by the god Ne- and therefore more orthodox, than cessity compelled to change worlds. either of the former two. Thales, Hence a succession of new worlds and its founder, was followed by Anaxiof new transmigrations of the soul of mander and Anaximenes : these were the world was to fill up the series of followed by Anaxagoras, the instrucinfinite ages. This was illustrated tor of Pericles and Archelaus, the by a bottle of sea-water, well corked, alleged master of Socrates. These tossing about in the tumults of the all, down to Socrates, devoted themocean until the cork decayed, or till selves to physics, and not to morals ; the bottle dashed upon a rock. In therefore they are out of our premises. either event, its soul, or contents Not so Socrates : of him Cicero has within, mingled with the water of the said, “ He was the first to call philoocean, and so lost its identity ; yet it sophy from the heavens, to place it in was as immortal as the ocean, because cities, and to introduce it into private a part of it. If the illustration was houses ; that is, to teach public and good, the proof was better. This private morals.” He was, indeed, learned lawgiver and philosopher, the first and the last of all the Grecian blessed with a retentive memory, philosophers that wholly devoted was able to prove his doctrine by himself to morals. narrating his own various and nume- Plato and Xenophon were his rous transmigrations, antecedent to immediate pupils ; Aristotle and the name and body of Pythagoras. | Xenocrates theirs. The Ionic school, His delighted followers heard his curi- in its theological and moral departous and brilliant intrigues and singular ments, was now merged in the freaks while his soul was tabernacling Socratic ; but that soon branched off in other mortal tenements.
into several sects—the Platonic, or
old Academic ; the Aristotelian, or by another route arrived at the same Peripatetic ; the Stoic, founded by goal with Epicurus. In their abstracZeno; the middle Academy, by tions they discovered, I had almost Arcesailaus ; and the new Academy, said, that pain was pleasure ; at least, by Carneades. Between these two that pain was no evil. Epicurus last Academies there was no real or taught that pleasure was the only permanent difference. If not in all good-Zeno, that virtue alone was their conclusions, they were, in all bliss—Epicurus that virtue was only their modes of reasoning, sceptical. valuable as the means of pleasure. Their discriminating principles were, Both agreed in demanding from their that “ nothing could be known,” and disciples an absolute command over that “every thing wus to be dispilted;" their passions, and both supposed it consequently nothimg was to be as- | practicable. They both boldly assertsented to, said the absolute sceptic. ed that the philosophy which they “No,” said the Academies ; the taught was the only way to happiprobable, wherever you find it, must ness; and yet both agreed that there be assented to ; but, till it be found, was no future state of happiness or you are to doubt.” And the misfor- misery, and equally justified selftune was, they rarely or ever found murder ! the probable; and in effect the Could any evidence dissipate the Academies and followers of Pyrrho, delusion of the competency of philothe absolute sceptic, were equally sophy to be either the standard of Atheists all their lives. Meanwhile, virtue or the guide of life, methinks as said the learned Bishop of Glouces- it might be found in this best of Pagan ter, “ they talk perpetually of their schools. Amongst its brightest ornaverisimile and of their probabile, ments were Chrysippus, Cato of Utica, amidst a situation of absolute doubt, Epictetus, Seneca, and Marcus Antodarkness, and scepticism-like Sancho ninus the Pious. Plausible in many Pancha of his island on the terra of their dogmata, prepossessing in firma .'” Pyrrho dogmatically affirm- their displays of certain yirtues, ed that “ no one opinion was more fascinating in some of their theories, probable than another,” and that most ingenious in all their speculathere were no moral qualities or tions, they breathed contempt both of distinctions. Beauty and deformity, pleasure and pain, commanded the virtue and vice, happiness and misery, extinguishment of passion and appehad no real cause, but depended on tite, eulogized temperance and selfcomparison-in one word, that “ all government, and extolled the dignity was relativo.”
of virtue and the rules of modesty and The lights of all Pagan philosophy piety; while themselves were adare now reduced to the three sects of dicted to vicious indulgences, sensual the Socratic school—the Platonic, pleasures, and even to gross intemthe Peripatetic, and the Stoic. If perance itself. Zeno drank to excess, we find no surer, no clearer moral and killed himself rather than endure lights in these three, all Grecian, I the pain of a broken finger ; Chrysipall Roman philosophy is a varied | pus died of a surfeit of sacrificial and extended system of scepticism, wine ; Cleanthus followed his examso far as the origin, moral obligations, | ple ; while Cato of Utica thrust the and destiny of man are involved. dagger into his own heart ; Epictetus
The Stoic, (for we shall take the gave to the human will a power last first), so called, not from Zeno, almighty, above that of the gods their founder, nor from his city ; but themselves, and advised suicide in from the painted porch in Athens, certain cases ; Seneca taught that no from which he promulged his doctrines, man ought to fear God—that a virtuous man equalled him in happiness : followers compared the soul to the he justified the drunkenness of Cato, harmony of a musical instrument, and pleaded for self-murder ; while which has no existence when the inmany of them indulged in the grosser strument is destroyed. The Platonic and more nameless vices of the Pagan school, or the old Academic, is not world. Of none of the Stoics could much better than the Peripatetic. as much in truth be said as Cowley Plato is designedly obscure in all his says of Epicurus :
speculations on Divinity. He affirms
one Supreme God, but he had no “ His life he to his doctrine brought, And in a garden's shade that sovereign pleasure
concern in the creation or government sought
of the world, and recommended the Whoever a true Epicure would be,
people to worship a plurality of inMay there find cheap and virtuous luxury.”
| ferior deities. He extols the oracles, The Peripatetic school, so deno- and advises the consultation of them minated from the peripaton, or walk in all matters of religion and worship. of the Lyceum, in which Aristotle He prescribed great licentiousness of taught his philosophy, next claims manners ; allows, and sometimes our attention. With the moral part commands, the exposing and destroyof this theory our demonstration lies. ing of children. He declares that on Aristotle, then, with all his prodi- proper occasions lying is not only gious parts, great erudition, and vari- l' profitable, but lawful. He argues ous and profound studies, was a the immortality of the soul, and speaks polytheist. He asserted the eternity of the rewards and punishments of a of the world both in matter and form, future life. He sometimes, however, He, indeed, held a supreme abstract equivocates on this subject, and seems intelligence, which he called the Su- to believe in the transmigration of preme God-pretty much the anima souls ; while again he will have the mundi of Pythagoras. This Supreme soul immortal from a necessity of naGod was the life and soul of all the ture, or from an antecedent immorgods inferior; for all the stars were, tality. He taught the Greeks to with him, true and eternal gods. He love themselves, and hate the barba-, denied that Providence ever stooped rians as enemies--by which term he beneath the moon, and consequently denoted all other nations. superintended not human affairs. His But yet there remains Socrates moral sentiments and theories, as a himself, the father of the Greek moral matter of course, corresponded with philosophy. Though not followed in his theological views. He not only the best part of his speculations by approved, but prescribed the exposing even his own Plato, who, nevertheless, and destroying of weak and sickly with the exception of Xenophon in children. He encouraged revenge. some points, followed him closer than Vacillating in all his theories of the any of the Socratic school, he clearly soul, he doubted at one time its future asserted and boldly fought one God, existence, and finally concludes the the immortality of the soul, and future ninth chapter of his 3rd Book of retributions. Paradoxical however Ethics with these words : “ Death is though it be, he did not fully believe the most dreadful of all things, for the doctrine which he taught. Somethat is the end of our existence; for times he believed it ; at other times, to him that is dead there seems no- his reasonings not fully proving it, he thing farther to remain, whether good seems to doubt it. He appears, inor evil.” Dicæarchus, one of his deed, to have died a sceptic. He most learned followers, whom Cicero both taught and practised polytheism, extols, wrote books to prove that and amongst his last words ordered souls are mortal; and many of his , a sacrifice to the god of physic.
As Plato represents him in his its own researches, and seeks for a Phædım the more nearly he approach-foundation in the traditions of former ed death, the more he doubted his times ? own doctrine. To his surrounding Tradition, then, and not induction, friends he says, “ I hope that I shall originated in the minds of the Socratic go to good men after death ; but this school all the light of the origin, I will not absolutely affirm.” Again, moral obligations, and destiny of man, “ That these things are so, as I have which this school and the Grecian represented them, it does not become and the Roman world from it enany man of understanding to affirm ; joyed. though, if it appear that the soul is The history of the whole matter is immortal, it seems reasonable to think this :--The Romans borrowed from that either such things, or something the Greeks, the Greeks stole from the like them, are true with regard to our Egyptians and Phenicians, while they souls and their habitations after death, borrowed from the Chaldeans and and that it is worth making a trial, Assyrians, who stole from the Abrafor the trial is noble."
hamic family all their notions of the To his judges he says, “ There is spirituality, eternity, and unity of much ground to hope that death is God, the primitive state of man, his good ; for it must necessarily be one fall, sacrifice, priests, altars, immorof the two; either the dead man is tality of the soul, a future state, nothing, and hath not a sense of any eternal judgment, and the ultimate thing, or it is only a change or migra- retribution of all men according to tion of the soul hence to another place their works. according to what we are told,
Philosophy, or human reason, is Kata ta legomena." ' very inadequate to the discovery of Finally he says, “ Those who live ideas on any of the greatest points there are both in other respects involved in the origin, obligations, happier than we, and also in this, and destiny of man. Hence, sensible that ever after they are immortal.” and learned men of former times and If the things which are told us are of the present day, assign to tradition true, Eiper ta legomena alethe estin, or revelation, handed down orally, Such are the triumphs of philosophy! and neither to “natural religion” nor Such is its power to guide the life, moral philosophy, all knowledge upon the piety, the morality, the destiny these subjects. Great and learned of man !!
names may be found in abundance to But we are about still farther to sanction the conclusion to which we despoil it of the little light that it has, are forced to come from the facts now and divest it of all its glory, even in standing in our horizon. These will the points of which the three mighti say with the distinguished Puffendorf est of Grecian philosophers, Socrates, in his law of nations : “ It is very Plato, and Aristotle most deserve and probable that God himself taught the most enjoyed the admiration of the first men the chief heads of natural world.
laws which were preserved and spread Remember the last words of So- abroad by means of education and crates—" If, indeed, the things that custom." “ Nature,” says Plutarch have been told us are true.” Who in his treatise on education, “ nature then, will have the temerity to affirm without learning and instruction is a that moral philosophy is a true science; blind thing.” “ Vice can have acthat it builds upon its own foundation, cess to the soul by many parts of the and uses only its own materials ; body, but Virtue can lay hold of a while its father and founder at last young man only by his ears.” And shifts it off the basis of reason and man,” says Plato, “ if not properly
educated, is the wildest and most That the first man never was an untractable of all earthly animals.” | infant, reason and philosophy are And, stranger still, “no man has ever compelled to admit ; and that he was been found possessed of a spiritual | spoken to before he spoke, and that conception by the mere exercise of by a superior being, are postulates his own powers,” declares a host of which will not be demanded, sooner observers.
than conceded, by every man having But, to complete our premises, two any pretensions to science or reason. things are yet wanting-a just view Of course, then, the adult Adam of tradition, and of the comparative received knowledge orally from its claims of reason and faith as faculties fountain - knowledge of his origin, or powers of acquiring knowledge of nature, relations, obligations, and the highest and most important cha- | destiny. If he did not fully compreracter. On these we have time but hend each or all of these, he could for a few remarks. And first, of not possibly be ignorant of any one tradition, as the first and chief source of them. He lived for nine hundred of knowledge to man.
and thirty years, an adult life all the Before an effort to sketch the his time ; and certainly was the oracle tory of ancient tradition, we must of the world for the first thousand define the term. According to Mil- 1 years of its history. ton, a name of high renown, “ tra- | But there were two witnesses from dition is any thing delivered orally the beginning; and two witnesses from age to age.” But, in its more most credible, because every feeling enlarged signification it denotes any of human nature compelled Adam thing-fact, event, opinion-handed and Eve to give a true history of down to us, whether by word or wri- their experience to their own children. ting. Still the ancient traditions be- Methuselah, who lived to the age of ing accounts from things delivered pine hundred and sixty-nine, the very from mouth to mouth, without written year of the deluge, conversed with memorials, while speaking of them Adam for two hundred and fortyI shall use the term as defined by three years ; and with Shem, the son Milton, Things delivered orally from of Noah, for almost one hundred age to age.
years. Thus, not only all the expeFew of us have paid much attention rience, all the acquisitions of these either to the nature of the amount of two great and learned sages (for that knowledge possessed in the re- great and learned they truly were), motest ages of the world ; nor to the but all the science of the antediluvian safe and direct manner by which it world were carried down to Shem by was communicated from one genera- the lips of one man. Now, as Shem tion to another. It was a true and | lived five hundred years after the practical knowledge of those five flood, he must have been the greatest elements which was essential to hap- of moral oracles ihat ever lived. All piness. On none of these points did antiquity, from Adam to himself, man, could man, begin to speculate or came to his ears by one man, corrophilosophize till tradition was corrupt-borated, too, by the concurrent testied by fable, and men began to doubt. mony of many others. Hence the era of philosophy, mental The amount and variety of knowand moral, was the era of scepticism. ledge which Methuse'ah possessed For, in the name of reason, why and communicated would, without should man institute a demonstration much reflection, be almost incredible a priori or a posteriori to ascertain a to any one who has not closely looked fact for which he had direct, positive, into the fragments of sacred history and unequivocal evidence ?
which are extant at this hour. Be