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but suppose that all men would admire them, on the reflection upon the frequent changes they had therein been themselves subject to; and this while those that have attempted to write somewhat of the same kind for politic government, and for laws are accused as composing monstrous things, and are said to have undertaken an impossible task upon them. And here I will say nothing of those other philosophers who have undertaken any thing of this nature in their writings. But even Plato himself who is so admired by the Greeks on account of that gravity in his manners, and force in his words, and that ability he had to persuade men beyond all other philosophers, is little better than laughed at and exposed to ridicule on that account, by those that pretend to sagacity in political affairs : although he that shall diligently peruse his writings, will find his precepts to be somewhat gentle, and pretty near to the customs of the generality of mankind. Nay, Plato himself confesseth, that it is not safe to publish the true notion concerning God among the ignorant multitude. Yet do some men look upon Plato's discourses as no better than certain idle words set off with great artifice. However, they admire Lycurgus as the principal lawgiver and all men celebrate Sparta for having continued in the firm observance of his laws for a very long time. So far then we have gained, that it is to be confessed a mark of virtue to submit to laws. * But, then let such as admire this in the Lacedemonians, compare that duration of theirs with more than two thousand years which our political government hath continued; and let them farther consider, that, though the Lacedemonians did seem to observe their laws exactly, while they enjoyed their liberty, yet that when they underwent a change of their fortune they forgot almost all those laws; while we having been under ten thousand changes in our fortune, by the changes that happened among the kings of Asia, we have never betrayed our laws under the most pressing distresses we have been in ; por have we neglected them either out of sloth or for a livelihood.t Nay, if any one
* It may not be amies to set down here a very remarkable testimony of the great pbilosopher Cicero, as to the preference of laws to philosophy: “I "will," says be,“ boldly declare my opinion, though the whole world be of “ fended at it. I prefer this little book of the Twelve Tables alone to all " the volumes of the philosophers. I find it to be not only of more weight, * but also much more useful." De Oratore.
# Or, We have observed our times of rest, and sorts of food allowed us, (Uwing our distresscs.]
will consider it, the difficulties and labours laid upon 'us have been greater than what appears to have been borne by the Lacedemonian fortitude, while they neither ploughed their land, nor exercised any trades, but lived in their own city, free from all such pains taking, in the enjoyment of plenty, and using such exercises as might improve their bodies, while they made use of other men as their servants for all the necessaries of life, and had their food prepared for them by the others; and these good and human actions they do for no other purpose but this, that by their actions and their sufferings they may be able to conquer all those against whom they make war. I need not add this, that they have not been fully able to observe their laws; for not only a few single persons, but multitudes of them have in heaps neglected those laws, and have delivered themselves, together with their arms, into the hands of their enemies.
33. Now, as for ourselves, I venture to say, that no one can tell of so many, nay, not more than one or two that have betrayed our laws, no not out of fear of death itself; I do not mean such an easy death as happens in battles, but that which comes with bodily torments, and seems to be the severest kind of death of all others. Now I think those that have conquered us have put us to such deaths, not out of their hatred to us when they had subdued us, but rather out of their desire of seeing a surprising sight, which is this, whether there be such men in the world who believe that no evil is to them so great as to be compelled to do or to speak any thing contrary to their own laws! Nor ought men to wonder at us, if we are more courageous in dying for our laws than all other men are; for other men do not easily submit to the easier things in which we are instituted; I mean working with our hands, and eating but little, and being contented to eat and drink not at random, or at eve. i'y one's pleasure, or beiwg under inviolable rules in lying with our wives in magnificent furniture, and again in the observation of our times of rest; while those that can use their swords in war, and can put their enemies to flight when they attack them, cannot bear to submit to such laws about their way of living : whereas our being accustomed willingly to submit to laws in these instances, renders us fit to shew our fortitude upon other occasions also.
34. Yet do the Lysimachi and the Molones, and some
other writers, (unskilful sophists as they are), and the deceivers of young men, reproach us as the vilest of all mankind. Now I have wo mind to make an inquiry into the laws of other nations; for the custom of our country is to keep our own laws, but not to bring accusations against the laws of others. And indeed our legislator hath expressly forbidden us to laugh at and revile those that are esteemed gods by other people,* on account of the very name of God ascribed to them. But since our antagonists think to run us down upon the comparison of their religion and ours, it is not possible to keep silence here, especially while what I shall say to confute these men will not be now first said, but hath been already said by many, and these of the highest reputation also: for who is there among those that have been admired among the Greeks for wisdom, who hath pot greatly blamed both the most famous poets and most celebrated legislators for spreading such notions originally among the body of the people concerning the gods ? such as these, that they may be allowed to be as numerous as they have a mind to have them; that they are begotten one by another, and that after all the kinds of generation you can imagine. They also distinguish them in their places and ways of living, as they would distinguish several sorts of animals: as some to be under the earth; as some to be in the sea; and the ancientest of them all to be bound in hell; and for those to whom they have allotted heaven, they have set over them one, who in title is their father, but in his actions a tyrant and a lord; whence it came to pass that his wife, and brother, and daughter, (which daughter he brought forth from his own head), made a conspiracy against him to seize upon him and confine him, as he had himself seized upon and confined his own father be fore.
35. And justly have the wisest men thought these notions deserved severe rebukes; they also laugh at them for determining that we ought to believe some of the gods to be beardless and young, and others of them to be old, and to have beards accordingly: that some are set to trades; that one god is a smith, and another goddess is a weaver ; that one god is a warrior, and fights with men; that some of them are harpers, or delight in
See Antiq, B. iv. ch. viji. & 10. vol. 1. and its notė,
archery; and besides, that mutual seditions arise among them, and that they quarrel about men, and this so far, that they not only lay hands upon one another, but that they are wounded by men, and lament, and take on for such their afflictions. But what is the grossest of all in point of lasciviousness, are those unbounded lusts ascribed to almost all of them, and their amours; which how can it be other than a most absurd supposal, especially when it reaches to the male gods, and to the female goddesses also. Moreover, the chief of all their gods, and their first father himself, overlooks those goddesses whom he had deluded and begotten with chill, and suffers them to be kept in prison, or drowned in the sea. He is also so bound up by fate, that he cannot save his own offspring, nor can he bear their deaths without shedding of tears. These are fine things indeed! as are the rest that follow. Adulteries truly are so impudently looked on in heaven by the gods, but some of them have confessed they envied those that were bound in the very act. And why should they not do so, when the eldest of them, who is their king also, hath not been able to restrain himsslf, in the violence of his lust, from lying with his wife so long as they might get into their bedchanıber. Now some of the gods are servants to men, and will sometimes be builders for a reward, and sometimes will be shepherds ; while others of them, like malefactors, are bound in a prison of brass. And what sober person is there who would not be provoked at such stories, and rebuke those that forged them, and condemn the great silliness of those that admit them for true ? Nay others there are that have advanced a certain timorouspess and fear, as also madness and fraud, and any other of the vilest passions into the nature and form of gods, and have persuaded whole cities to offer sacrifice to the better sort of them; on which account they have been absolutely forced to esteem some gods as the givers of good things, and to call others of them averters of evil. They also endeavour to move them, as they would the vilest of men, by gifts and presents, as looking for nothing else than to receive some great mischief from them, unless they pay them such wages.
36. Wherefore it deserves our inquiry, what should be the occasion of this unjust management, and of these scan. dáls about the Deity ? And truly I suppose it to be di: ved from the imperfect knowledge the heathen legislators had at first of the true nature of God; nor did they explain to the people even so far as they did comprehend of it; nor did they compose the other parts of their political settlements according to it, but omitted it as a thing of very little consequence, and gave leave both to the poets to introduce what gods they pleased, and those subject to all sorts of passions, and to the orators to procure political decrees from the people for the admission of such foreign gods as they thought proper. The painters also and the staturies of Greece had herein great power, as each of them could contrive a shape (proper for a god] ; the one to be formed out of clay, and the other by making a bare picture of such a one. But those workmen that were principally admired had the use of ivory and of gold as the constant materials for their pew statues ; [whereby it comes to pass, that some temples are quite deserted, while others are in greatesteem, and adorned with all the rites of all kinds of purification.) Besides this, the first gods, who have long flourished in the honours done them, are now grown old, [while those that flourished after them are come in their room as a second rank, that I may speak the most lionourably of them that I can]: nay, certain other gods there are who are newly introduced, and newly worshipped, (as we by way of digression have said already, and yet have left their places of worship desolate ;) and for their temples, some of them are already left desolate, and others are built anew, according to the pleasure of men : whereas they ought to have preserved their opinion about God and that worship which is due to him, always and immutably the same.
37. But now, this Apollonius Molo was one of these foolish and proud men. However, nothing that I have said was unknown to those that were real philosophers among the Greeks, nor were they unacquainted with those frigid pretences of allegories, [which had been alledged for such things;] on which account they justly despised them, but have still agreed with us as to the true and becoming notions of God; whence it was that Plato would not have political settlements admit of any one of the other poets, and dismisses even Homer himself, with a garland on his head, and with ointment poured upon him, and this because he should not destroy the right notions of God with his fables. Nay,