Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

Friend reader, a little patience and attention, if you please : “When God had formed the soul of the world of these three substances, the soul shot itself into the midst of the universe, to the extremities of being : spreading itself everywhere, and re-acting upon itself, it formed at all times a divine origin

of eternal wisdom.” And some lines afterwards : “ Thus the nature of the immense animal which we call the world, is eternal.”

Plato, following the example of his predecessors, then introduces the Supreme Being, the creator of the world, forming this world before time; so that God could not exist without the world, nor the world with out God; as the sun cannot exist without shedding light into 'space, nor this light steal into space without

the sun.

I

pass in silence many Greek, or rather Oriental ideas; as for example that there are four sorts of animals celestial gods, birds of the air, fishes, and terrestrial animals, to which last we have the honour to belong

I hasten to arrive at a second trinity: “the being engendered, the being who engenders, and the being which resembles the engendered and the engenderer." This trinity is formal enough, and the fathers have found their account in it.

This trinity is followed by a rather singular theory of the four elements. The earth is founded on a equilateral triangle, water on a right angled triangle, air on a scalene, and fire on an isoceles triangle. After which he demonstratively proves, that there can be but five worlds, because there are but five regular solid bodies, and yet that there is but one world which is round.

I 'confess, that no philosopher in Bedlam has ever reasoned so powerfully. Rouse yourself, friend reader, to hear me speak of the other famous trinity of Plato, which his commentators have so much vaunted : it is the Eternal Being, the Eternal Creator of the world; his word, intelligence, or idea ; and the good which results from it. I assure you that I have sought for it diligently in this Timeus, and I have never found it there; it may be there 'totidem litteris,' but it is not ‘ totidem verbis,' or I am much mistaken. • After reading all Plato with great reluctance, I perceived some shadow of the trinity for which he is so much honoured. It is in the sixth book of his Chimerical Republic, in which he says" Let us speak of the son, the wonderful production of good, and his perfect image." But unfortunately he discovers this perfect image of God to be the sun. It was therefore the physical sun, which with the word and the father composed the platonic trinity.

In the Epinomis of Plato there are very curious absurdities, one of which I translate as reasonably as I can, for the convenience of the reader.

“Know that there are eight virtues in heaven: 1 have observed them, which is easy to all the world. The sun is one of its virtues, the moon another; the third is the assemblage of stars; and the five planets, with these three virtues, make the number eight. Be careful of thinking that these virtues, or those which they contain, and which animate them, either move of themselves or are carried in vehicles; be careful, I say, of believing, that some may be gods and others not; that some may be adorable, and others such as we should neither adore or invoke. They are all brothers; each has his share; we owe them all the same honours; they fill all the situations which the word assigned to them, when it formed the visible universe."

Here is the word already found: we must now find the three persons. They are in the second letter from Plato to Dionysius, which letters assuredly are not forged; the style is the same as that of his dialogues

. He often says to Dionysius and Dion things very difficult to comprehend, and which we might believe to be written in numbers; but he also tells us very clear ones, which have been found true a long time after him. For example, he expresses himself thus in his seventh letter to Dion:

“I have been convinced that all states are very badly governed ; there is scarcely any good institutioa

[ocr errors]

or administration. We see as it were, day after day, that all follows the path of fortune rather than that of wisdom.”

After this short digression on temporal affairs, let us return to spiritual ones, to the trinity. Plato says to Dionysius :

“ The king of the universe is surrounded by his works: all is the effect of his grace. The finest of things have their first cause in him ; the second in perfection have in him their second cause, and he is further the third cause of works of the third degree.”

The trinity, such as we acknowledge, could not be recognised in this letter; but it was a great point to have in a Greek author a guarantee of the dogmas of the dawning church. Every Greek church was therefore platonic, as every Latin church was peripatetic, from the commencement of the third century. Thus two Greeks whom, we have never understood, were the masters of our opinions until the time in which men at the end of two thousand years were obliged to think for themselves.

SECTION II.

Questions on Plato and on some other Trifles. Plato in saying to the Greeks what so many philosophers of other nations have said before him, in assuring them that there is a supreme intelligence which arranged the universe, did he think that this supreme intelligence resided in a single place, like a king of the east in his seraglio? Or rather did he believe that this powerful intelligence spread itself everywhere like light, or a being still more delicate, prompt, active, and penetrating than light? The god of Plato, in a word, is he in matter, or is he separated from it? Oh you who have read Plato attentively, that is to say seven or eight fantastical dreams hidden in some garret in Europe, if ever these questions reach you; I implore you to answer them.

The barbarous island of Cassiterides, in which men lived in the woods in the time of Plato, has finally produced philosophers who are as much beyond him as

Plato was beyond those of his contemporaries who reasoned not at all.

Among these philosophers, Clarke is perhaps altogether the clearest, the most profound, the most methodical and the strongest of all those who have spoken of the Supreme Being.

When he gave his excellent book to the public he found a young gentleman of the county of Gloucester who candidly advanced objections as strong as his demonstrations. We can see them at the end of the first volume of Clarke; it was not on the necessary existence of the Supreme Being that he reasoned; it was on his infinity and immensity.

It appears not indeed, that Clarke has proved that there is a being who penetrates intimately all which .exists, and that this being whose properties we cannot .conceive has the property of extending himself to the greatest imaginable distance.

The great Newton has demonstrated that there is a void in nature; but what philosopher could demonstrate to me that God is in this void ; that he touches it; that he fills it? How, bounded as we are, can we attain to the knowledge of these mysteries? Does it not suffice, that it proves to us that a supreme master exists? It is not given to us to know what he is nor how he is.

It seems as if Locke and Clarke had the keys of the intelligible world. Locke has opened all the apart. ments which can be entered; but has not Clarke wished to penetrate a little above the edifice ?

How could a philosopher like Samuel Clarke, after so admirable a work on the existence of God, write so pitiable a one on matters of fact?

How could Benedict Spinosa, who had as much profundity of mind as Samuel Clarke, after raising himself to the most sublime metaphysics, how could he not perceive that a supreme intelligence presides over works visibly arranged with a supreme. intelligence-if it is true after all that such is the system of Spinosa ?

How could Newton, the greatest of men, comment upon the Apocalypse, as we have already remarked?

[ocr errors]

How could Locke, after having so well developed the human understanding, degrade his own in another work?

I fancy I see eagles, who after darting into a cloud go to rest on a dunghill.

POETS.

pro

A YOUNG man on leaving college deliberates whether he shall be an advocate, a physican, a theologian, or a poet-whether he shall take care of our body, our soul, or our entertainment. We have already spoken of advocates and physicians; we will now speak of the digious fortune which is sometimes made by the theologian.

The theologian becomes pope, and has not only his theological valets, cooks, singers, chamberlains, physicians, surgeons, sweepers, agnus dei makers, confectioners, and preachers, but also his poet. I know not what inspired personage was the poet of Leo X., as David was for some time the poet of Saul.

It is surely of all the employments in a great house that which is the most useless. The kings of England, who have preserved in their island many of the ancient usages which are lost on the continent, have their official poet. He is abliged once a year to make an ode in praise of St. Cecilia,t who played so marvellously on the organ or psalterion, that an angel descended from the ninth heaven to listen to her more conveniently—the harmony of the psaltery, in ascending from this place to the land of angels, necessarily losing a small portion of its volume.

Moses is the first poet that we know of; but it is thought that before him the Chaldeans, the Syrians, and the Indians practised poetry, since they possessed music. Nevertheless, the fine canticle which Moses

most

And have still; those too who officially manufacture the surprising hexameters.-T.

† The odes of Dryden and Pope doubtless misled Voltaire into this supposition. How much more stupendous the misconception, if some future foreign writer should assert, that on the death of every monarch it was the province of his laureate to write a Vision of Judgment !--T.

« AnteriorContinua »