صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

manner, from a common instruction or primitive tradition, (as indeed, to my seeming, from that chiefly, assisted by good reason, it most probably did arise,) we shall thereby be driven to inquire, who that common master, or the author of such tradition was; of any such we find no name recorded, (as we do of them, who have by plausible reasons or artifices drawn whole nations and sects of people to a belief of their doctrine ;) we find no time when, no place where, no manner how it began to grow or spread, as in other cases hath been wont to appear ; what then can we otherwise reasonably deem, than that the first deliverers and teachers thereof were none other than the first parents of mankind itself, who, as they could not be igno-, rant of their own original, so could not but take care by ordinary education to convey the knowlege thereof to their children ; whence it must needs insensibly spread itself over all posterities of men, being sucked in with their milk, being taught them together with their first rudiments of speech? Thus doth that consideration lead us to another, very advantageous to our purpose ; that mankind hath proceeded from one common stock of one man or a few men gathered together; which doth on a double score confirm our assertion : first, as proving the generations of men had a beginning; secondly, as affording us their most weighty authority for the doctrine we assert. For, 1. supposing mankind had a beginning on this earth, whence could it proceed but from such a Being as we assert? who but such an one (so wise, powerful and good) could or would form these bodies of ours so full of wonderful artifice ? who should infuse those divine endowmėnts (not only of life and sense, but) of understanding and reason ? Aristotle, * discoursing about the generation of animals, says, “If man (or any other perfect animal) were ynyevns, he must be necessarily produced, either as out of a worm, or as from an egg ;' but is it not ridiculous to suppose him to arise in either of those manners ? did we, did ever any one in any age observe any such production of a man? yet, why if once it could be, should it not happen sometime, yea often again, in some part of the earth, in so many thousand years? what peculiar lucky temper of slime can we

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

imagine to have been then, which not at sometime afterward, not somewhere should appear again? Experience sufficiently declares, that more is required to so noble a production, that men no otherwise come into the world, than either from another man, (fitted in a manner curious above our conception with many organs most exquisitely suited to that purpose,) or immediately from a cause incomprehensibly great and wise. And could we without fondness conceive man's body possibly might arise (like mice, as Diodorus Siculus tells us, out of the mud of Nilus) from earth and water fermented together, and organised by the sun's heat; yet (as more largely we have discoursed at another time) we cannot however well suppose

his soul, that principle of operations so excellent, (so much different from, so far elevated above all material motions,) to spring up from dirty stuff, however baked or boiled by heat. I ask also, (supposing still this notion derived from the first men,) 2. who instilled even this notion into them ? why they should conceive themselves to come from God, if they did not find it so; if he that made them, did not sensibly discover himself to them, and show them, that to him they owed their being? In short, if they did testify and teach their posterity, that they came from God, we can have no reason to disbelieve them; nor can imagine more credible witnesses, or more reasonable instructors than themselves concerning their own original: it is a discourse, this, which we find even in Plato : - We must,' saith he, ‘yield credence to them, who first avouched themselves the offspring of God, and did sure clearly know their own progenitors; it is indeed impossible to distrust the children of the gods, although otherwise speaking without plausible or necessary demonstrations; but, following law, we must believe them, as testifying about matters peculiarly belonging to themselves.'*

Thus do these two notions, that of general tradition concerning God, and that concerning man's origin on earth from one stock, mutually support and defend each other. And indeed, concerning the latter, there be divers other arguments of the same kind, although perhaps hardly any so clear and valid,

* Tim. p. 1053.

6

confirming it; I mean divers common opinions, stories, and practices, of an unaccountable rise, which cannot be well deemed to have been introduced, and so universally diffused among men, otherwise than from this fountain. I think it worth the while to propound some instances thereof, of each kind.

* Even this opinion or story itself, concerning mankind proceeding from one single or very narrow stock, was commonly received, and that from this head of tradition; as also divers other concerning the nature and state of man. That God did form man and breathe his soul into him, (as Aratus says, that

we are God's offspring,' and as ·Cicero speaks, that we have our souls drawn and dropped from the Divine nature,'t) might be shown by innumerable testimonies to have been a general opinion ; which although it have a very strong foundation in reason, yet it seems rather to have sobtained by virtue of tradition.

That man was formed after the image of God,f and doth much resemble him, was also a general opinion, as Aristotle himself observes; and Ovid most expressly, according to what he found set down in ancient stories.

That man's soul is immortal, and destined to a future state of life, in joy or pain respectively, according to his merits or demerits in this life; that there should accordingly pass severe scrutinies and judgments after death on the actions of this life; that there were places provided of rest and pleasure for good men, of horror and misery for bad men departed; were opinions that did commonly possess men's minds ; none of them, it Jeems, on the force of any arguments having a common influence on men's minds, (such as philosophers did by speculation invent, being indeed too subtile for vulgar capacities to apprehend, and scarce able to persuade themselves,) but rather from their education, continued through all times, and commencing from that head we speak of ; as even such philosophers themselves confess : “ We must,' says Plato, ' believe the reports of this kind, (speaking about these matters,) being so many and so

+ Cic. Divin. 1.

* Vid. Clem. Alex. Str. v.p. 401.

'ArpWTOELBETs teous, &c.-Metaph. xii. 8.

very ancient :'* and, · We suppose,' saith Cicero, 'that souls abide after death from the consent of all nations.'t And, 'I cannot,' saith he again, assent unto those who have lately begun to discourse, that souls do perish together with bodies, and that all things are blotted out by death : the authority of the ancients doth more prevail with me.'And, 'When,' saith Seneca, 'we dispute concerning the eternity of souls, the consent of men either fearing or worshipping the Inferi (that is, the state of things after death) hath no slight moment with us.'s Even Celsus himself (an Epicurean philosopher, and great enemy of our faith) confesses that • divine men had delivered it, that happy souls should enjoy a happy life hereafter.PH

The opinion concerning man having sometimes been in a better state, (both in regard to complexion of mind and outward accommodations of life, but that he did by his wilful miscarriages fall thence into this wretched condition of proneness to sin, and subjection to sorrow, was an ancient doctrine, (if we take Plato's word ;) and concerning it Cicero hath these remarkable words : . From which errors and miseries of human life we may,' saith he, 'conclude that sometime those ancient prophets, or interpreters of the Divine mind in the delivery of holy mysteries, who have said that we are born to undergo punishments for the faults committed in a former life, may seem to have understood somewhat.' [-(It is true, these authors assign this fall to the souls of singular persons in a state of preexistence; but it is plain enough how easy it might be so to mistake and transform the story.) To the same head may

be referred that current story concerning the golden age, in which men first did live so happily without care and pain ; which so livelily expresses man's condition in Paradise. As also thereto may belong that relation concerning man's being thrown into this miserable state, because of a rapine committed against God's will, and that by the means of a woman sent down; who

with her hands opened the lid of a great vessel, (fraught with mischiefs,) and thence dispersed sad disasters and sorrows

* Plat. de Leg. 2. Vid. Gorg. sub fin. + Cic. T'usc. 1. I In Læl. § Sen. Ep. 117. Il Celsus apud Orig. pag. 350. q. Cic. Fragm. pag. 79.

among men ;' as Hesiod expresseth it, in words very applicable to the fact of our mother Eve, and t e event following it.*

I do not know also whether what Platot says conceruing man's being at first å vdpóyuros, (of both sexes,) and being afterward cleaved into two, was borrowed from tradition, or devised from his own fancy ; it surely well comports with the sacred history concerning woman being taken out of man. That there are two prime causes or principles, one of good things, the other of bad, was the ancient doctrine among all the ancient nations; of the Persians, (who called one of them Oromasdes, the other Arimanius;) of the Egyptians, (who had their Osiris and Typhon ;) of the Chaldeans, (who had their good and bad planets;) of the Greeks, (who had their good and bad demon, their Zeùs and "Adns ;) we have reported by Plutarch in his tract de Iside et Osiride, by Laertius in his Proceme, and others, (Aug. de Civ. Dei, v. 21.) which conceits seem derived from the ancient traditions concerning God the author of all good, and Sathan the tempter to all evil, and the minister of divine vengeance; (Plutarch expressly says the good principle was called God, the bad one, Dæmon.) Indeed there were many other relations concerning matters of fact, or pieces of ancient story, agreeing with the sacred writings, which did among the ancient people pass commonly, although somewhat disguised by alterations incident from time and other causes; which seem best derivable from this common fountain: such as that concerning the sons of God and heroes dwelling on the earth; concerning men of old time exceeding those of following times in length of life, in stature, in strength of body, whereof in ancient poets there is so much mention; concerning men's conspiring in rebellion against God, affecting and attempting to climb heaven; concerning mankind being overwhelmed and destroyed by an universal deluge, and that by divine justice, because of cruelty and oppression (with other enormous vices) generally reigning:

-Qua terra patet, fera regnat Erinnys,
In facinus jurasse putes : dent ocyus omnes

Quas meruere pati (sic stat sententia) poenas. * Sen. Ep. 90.

χείρεσσι πίθου μέγα πωμ' αφελούσα

'Εσκεδασ', ανθρώποισι δ' εμήσατο κήδεα λυγρά.-Ηes. "Έργ. + In Phædr.

« السابقةمتابعة »