Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

Whether the doctrine of the Anima Mundi, according to which, the souls of men are portions of the Supreme Being with whom they are re-united at death, and in whom they are finally absorbed and lost, “ would have been loudly disclaimed by Epictetus, Antoninus, and all the wisest and soberest of the Stoical school," it is perhaps unnecessary to determine; but one thing is incontrovertible, that this doctrine formed a tenet of the Stoical philosophy.

Lord Herbert, who cannot be charged with entertaining prejudices against the heathen philosophy, observes, that the Gentiles did not only worship the whole world taken together, but its parts, yea, even its particles or smaller parts; thinking it unbecoming, that some of the more eminent parts of him whom they regarded as God should be worshipped, and other parts neglected. And therefore they judged, that it would be a base and impious thing to render worship to this or that star or element, and reject the others as vile and worthless. And, in worshipping the world as consisting of those parts, they thought they worshipped the supreme God. (De Relig. Gentil. p. 133, 134.)

“ The pagans in general,” says Dr. Cudworth, “ even the most refined of them, agreed in these two things ; first, in breaking and crumbling the one simple Deity, and multiplying it into many gods, or parcelling it out into several particular notions, according to its several powers and virtues; and then, in theologizing the whole world, and deifying the natures of things, accidents, and inanimate bodies. They supposing God to pervade all things, and himself to be in a manner all things.” (Intel. Syst. p. 532.) The same learned writer elsewhere observes, “that the pagans were universally world-worshippers, in one sense or other; not that they worshipped the world as a dead, inanimate thing, but either as the body of God, or as the temple or image of God." (Intell. Syst. p. 538.) On this principle, one of the Stoics is represented by Cicero as arguing for the divinity of the stars. Hac mundi divinitate perspectâ, tribuenda est sideribus eadem divinitas, ut ea quoque rectissimè et animantia esse, et sentire atque, intelligere dicantur-ex quo efficitur in Deorum numero astra esse ducenda. (De Nat. Deor. lib. ii. cap. 15.) Seneca, one of the most eminent of the Stoical school, regarded human beings as parts of the Divinity. Quid est autem, cur non existimes in eo divini aliquid existere, qui Dei pars est ? Totum hoc quo continemur, et unum est et Deus ; et socii ejus sumus et membra.-Epictetus taught that “ man is a distinct portion of the Divine essence, and contains a part of God in himself.” (Miss Carter's Translation, 2d b. chap. 8. sect. 2.) Antoninus represents the soul (atroppo.c) as an efflux or emanation from the governor of the world. (Lib. ii. sect. 4.)—And on the principle that the deity is the soul of the world he addresses his prayer to the world. (Lib. iv. sect. 23.)

“ It were well," says the learned Leland, “ if the absurdity of this way of philosophizing were the worst of it. But besides that it gave occasion to some of those extravagant flights of the Stoics, so unbecoming dependent creatures, as if they had a divinity and sufficiency in themselves, which placed them in several respects on an equality with God-this notion was made use of for supporting the Pagan idolatry, and was therefore of the most pernicious consequence to the interests of religion. For upon this principle they deified the several parts of the world, and things of nature, and worshipped them as gods or parts of God. Cicero, in his Academics, gives this representation of the sentiments of the Stoics; that they held that “ this world is wise, and hath a mind or soul, whereby it formed or fabricated both it and itself, and ordereth, moveth, and governeth all things: and that the sun, moon, and all the stars are gods, because a certain animal intelligence pervadeth and passeth through all things.” (Cic. Acad. lib. ii. cap. 37.) In like manner, the great and learned Varro expressly says that the soul of the world, and its parts, are the true gods; and represents this as the sentiment of those who had the justest notions, and were acquainted with the secrets of learning.

“ Thus it appears," continues this learned writer, " that the one God of these philosophers was really an aggregate of deities. The unity of God which they pleaded for, was the unity of the world, which consisteth of innumerable parts; and accordingly, the great stoical argument to prove that there is one God was, that there is but one world; but this one divinity was multiplied into as many gods as there were parts of the world, all animated by the same universal soul, and all of them parts of the one God. This theology or philosophy, therefore, furnished a pretext for worshipping the several parts of the world, and the powers and virtue diffused through the parts of it, under the name of the popular divinities. And thus, instead of curing the popular superstition and polytheism, they confirmed and established it, and as Plutarch charges the Stoics, filled the air, heaven, earth and sea, with gods.”(Leland on the Christian Revelation, vol. i. p. 254, 255.)

THE END.

LONDON: PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES,

Northumberland-court,

« ForrigeFortsæt »