« IndietroContinua »
on this point. The original of the ancient fables, and of
occasionally enquired into and explained - Pp. 45-125
ancient philosophers not only did not, but that they
fact (of the ancient philosophers not believing, and yet
SECT. VI. The atheistical pretence of religion's being an
invention of statesmen, and therefore false, clearly con-
futed, and shewn to be both impertinent and false. For
that, was the Atheists account of religion right, it would
not follow that religion was false, but the contrary. But
the pretence false and groundless, religion having existed
before the civil magistrate was in being - PP. 215--314
DIVINE LEGATION OF MOSES
upon the proof of my second proposition ; namely, THAT ALL ANTIQUITY WAS UNANIMOUS' IN THINKING THAT THE DOCTRINE OF A FUTURE
STATE OF REWARDS AND PUNISHMENTS WAS
NECESSARY TO THE WELL-BEING OF SOCIETY : And the method I laid down for it, was, 1. To shew the conduct of Legislators, and the founders of civil policy. 2. The opinions of the wisest and most learned of the ancient Sages.
The CONDUCT OF THE LEGISLATORS hath been fully examined in the last book.
II. THE OPINION OF THE ANCIENT SAGES, is the subject of the present. VOL. III.
They too, as well as the Lawgivers, were unanimous in this point, how discordant soever and at variance amongst themselves, in other matters. Whatever System of Policy the Historian favoured; whatever Theory of Nature the Philosopher espoused; this always remained an unquestionable principle. The favourer of arbitrary power deemed it the strongest bond of blind obedience; and the friend of civil liberty, the largest source of virtue and a public spirit. The Atheist, from the vastness of its social use, concluded Religion to be but an invention of State ; and the Theist, from that confessed utility, laboured to prove it of divine original.
To give the reader a detail of the discourses, where this truth is owned and supported, would be to transcribe Antiquity : for, with this begins and ends every thing they teach and explain of Morals, Government, human Nature, and civil Policy. I shall therefore content myself with two or three passages, as a specimen only, of the general voice of ancient Wisdom.
Timæus the Locrian, a very early Pythagorean, well practised in affairs, and, in Plato's opinion, of consummate knowledge in philosophy, discoursing on the remedies to moral evil, after having spoken of the use of philosophy to lead well-tempered minds to happiness, by teaching the measures of just and unjust; adds, that, for intractable spirits civil Society was invented; which keeps men in fear by the coercions of Law and Religion: “ But if we «come (says he) to a perverse ungovernable dispo“ sition, there, punishments should be applied ;
both those which civil laws inflict, and those “ which the terrors of religion denounce against the « wicked from above and from below: as, that
ENDLESS PUNISHMENTS attend the remains of unhappy men; and all those torments, which I
highly applaud the Ionic poet for recording from " ancient tradition, in order to cleanse and purify " the mind from vice *.»
That sage historian, Polybius (whose knowledge of mankind and civil Government was so celebrated, that Rome preferred him to the august employment of composing laws for Greece, now become a province to the republic) speaking of the excellence of the Roman Constitution, expresseth himself in this manner: “ But the superior excel“ lence of this Policy, above others, manifests itself, " in my opinion, chiefly in the religious notions “ the Romans hold concerning the Gods: that
thing, which in other places is turned to abuse, “ being the very support of the Roman affairs; I
mean THE FEAR OF THE GODS, or what the
* -Ει δε κά τις σκλαρός και απειθής, τέτω δ' επέσθω κόλασις, άτ' εκ των νόμων και α εκ των λόγων σύνθονα επάγεσα δείμαιά τε έπωράνια και τα καθ' άδεω, ότι κολάσιες απαραίτηλοι απόκειναι δυσδαίμοσι νερλέροις" και τάλλα όσα έπαινέω τον Ιωνικόν σοιήίαν, έκ παλαιάς ποιεϋλα τως εναγέας. Περί ψυκάς κόσμω. Τimaeus, p. 23. in Opusculis Myth. Eth. et. Physicis, Cantabr. 1671, 8vo.
“ Greeks call superstition; which is come to such a
height, both in its influence on particulars, and
on the public, as cannot be exceeded. This, “ whichmany may think unaccountable, seems
plainly to have been contrived for the sake of the
Community. If, indeed, one were to frame a “ civil Policy only for wise men, it is possible this « kind of Institution might not be necessary. But
since the multitude is ever fickle and capricious, “ full of lawless passions, and irrational and violent
resentments, there is no way left to keep them in order, but by the terrors of FUTURE PUNISH
MENT, and all the pompous circumstance that « attends such kind of fictions. On which account " the Ancients acted, in my opinion, with great
judgement and penetration, when they contrived "to bring in these notions of the Gods,, and of a
FUTURE STATE, into the popular belief; and “ the present age as inconsiderately, and absurdly, “ in removing them, and encouraging the multitude
to despise their terrors. For see now the conse
quence : in Greece, the man who is entrusted " with the public money (to pass by other matters.)
though it be but of a single talent, and though he
give a ten-fold security in the most authentic form, " and before twice the number of witnesses which “ the Law requires, cannot be brought to discharge « his engagements; while, amongst the Romans, " the mere RELIGION OF AN OATH keeps those, " who have vast sums of money passing through