« VorigeDoorgaan »
vious systems, but deviated essentially from the Stoics, in deriving the emotions of the soul from corporeal and outward influence, and in denying the sufficiency of virtue to insure happiness. Yet the errors of these, and, if we may so express it, the perpetuity of contradiction which they exhibited, prove incontestibly that their endeavour was rather to attain reputation for talent, than to elicit truth; until finally, when Cicero himself wished to exhibit to his countrymen a condensation of all previous theories for their especial benefit, “ the probable” and not
the true, he could proffer to satisfy the doubts of the inquiring spirit, whose fears can be allayed only by the authority of inspiration. A review of the whole period, which closes our history, brings before us, as contemporaneous, some who adhered to the study of Plato, Aristotle, the Porch, and the Academy ; but who abandoned the Socratic principle of the study of oneself, and our relation to a Divine Ruler, for
1 wordy declamation and sophistical display.
The origin of this abuse of the Socratici method may be traced to the error of Aristippus--that there was nothing to guide the mind but its present consciousness, hence that • “Haud verum sed verisimile,” Vide Tusc. Disp. passim.
the aim of life was to enjoy the present ; and this error sufficed to neutralize the exertions of Plato to maintain the ennobling philosophy of Socrates. Not but that in Plato himself we find a retrograde movement from fixed moral principles to unstable inconsistency; a bias but too faithfully imitated, both by Aristotle and Zeno. It is, indeed, the distinguishing mark of Platonic theory to cherish a hope of immortality from dissatisfaction at the present state; and in the idea of God's absolute and perfect goodness, we perceive the desire to arrive at a more accurate knowledge of his nature: but uncertainty was still the issue, and because all could not be proved, general incredulity as to first principles prevailed. With Aristotle, we have to prosecute science upon
the útter prostration of man's dignity, in obedience to a system wherein the Divine nature is reduced to the simple principle of life, fettered by an invincible necessity. He introduces us into the dark cavern of materialism, whence the sun of immortality is excluded; and should the vexed spirit desire some medicine to heal its sickness," present enjoyment, intellectual activity, or complianceaccording to Epicurus—with the demands of sense, are all that such philosophy can proffer!
The next step was easy. To stifle those convictions which would be heard, the sceptic finds freedom from perturbation by denying every duty, and yielding to every impulse ; while he takes reason only as his guide--at one time the moderator, at another the menial, of passion. And how did the Stoic redeem the mischief? With much that is good as to the nature of God, we find gross ignorance and idolatry—the denial of a future existence and an arrogant attempt to place human nature above the reach of evil, upon the frail ground of contradicting its own impressions. The picture is not too highly coloured; and this faithful representation of heathen thought-so much lauded, yet so little known--may be both positively and relatively beneficial : positively, for we are thus able to ascertain the real benefit derived by the world from ancient investigation, as consisting in the establishment of strict rules of scientific inquiry adopted therein ; and relatively, not less by the avoidance of its ethical error, than by the additional effulgence cast by the contrast upon Christianity.
Ennobling man's nature by the contemplation of themes worthy of that God of love, who has dignified them by his presence, the vain theories of heathen speculation vanish like
clouds before that Sun of righteousness which rises
upon the renewed soul with "healing in his wings.” No logical precision can equal the pure clearness which the Holy Spirit, by his awakening power, sheds upon the intellect, while he sanctifies the affections; no doubů is admissible where the infallible evidence of revelation makes reason the handmaid to the interests of the soul ; no misdirection of views can occur from those pages which, by prayer, place man's impulses, his hopes, and (which the Greek philosopher so frequently omitted) his responsibilities too, in their appropriate relation to God. This philosophy is not restricted to the intellectual, “ for the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein,” and “whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely ;" neither are its anticipations dubious, but present in Christ an “anchor of the soul, sure and stedfast.” Instead of being the result of man's wisdom, it speaks those things which the Holy Ghost teacheth, and comes with the pardon of sin to comfort the weary and heavy-ladenrobbing the grave of its victory, through the One great Mediator, Christ Jesus, " to the Jew a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness.” In a word, the Scripture, the gospel of the grace of God-to quote the famous
address of the translators of the Bible to the reader ---" is a pandect of profitable laws against rebellious spirits ; a treasury of most costly jewels against beggarly rudiments; a fountain of most pure water springing up unto everlasting life. And what marvel? The original thereof, being from heaven--not from earth; the author being God—not man ; the inditer being the Holy Spirit--not the wit of the apostles or prophets; the penmen, such as were sanctified from the womb, and endued with a principal portion of God's Spirit; the matter, verity, piety, purity, uprightness ; the form-God's word, God's testimony, God's oracles; the word of truth-the word of salva
} tion; the effects--light of understanding, stableness of persuasion, repentance from dead works, newness of life, holiness, peace, joy in the Holy Ghost ; lastly, the end and reward of the study thereof—fellowship with the saints, participation of the heavenly nature, fruition of an inheritance, immortal, undefiled, and that never shall fade away. Happy is the man that delighteth in the Scripture, and thrice happy that meditateth in it day and night!”
THE RELIGIOUS TRACT SOCIETY: INSTITUTED 1799,