« PreviousContinue »
cruelties he exercised towards their childen; barbarities that are declared death by our laws, though committed upon any of the brute creation.
Such is une veneration we have for the observance of these laws, that neither power, profit, fear, or any other consideration, can divert, ot deter us from the conscientious discharge of our duty.-Nor have we exerted ourselves in military exploits from motives of ambition or avarice, but for the support and maintenance of our lawful rights. We have submitted to every kind of outrage with patience and resignation ; but we feel most sensibly for every violation of our laws, and are thereby rendered daring and obstinate, to the last degree. What reason can we have for desiring to imitate the customs of other nations, which we see abandoned by their very founders ? Why do not the Spartans abandon their inhospitality, as well as their contempt of matrimony? And the people of Elis and Thebes their abominable propensities? The most shameful practices generally prevailed among the Greeks through connivance; and they ascribed to their very gods the gratification of the most criminal passions.
What shall be said of those legislators who have been more assiduous in devising means for the escape of malefactors, than for bringing them to condign punishment, compounding for a fine in cases of adultery, and atoning for debauchery by marriage ? It would be endless to recount the temptations to swerve from the rules of piety and virtue, that are thrown out to the unwary by these compositions, even to the total subversion of their laws.
But nothing of this kind is permitted amongst us; for, though we be deprived of our wealth, our cities, and every thing we hold most dear, our laws continue inviolate, and immutably the same. Now if this be our disposition towards our laws, and that from their intrinsic value, let our enemies make this confession, that they are most excellent. If they deny us this requisition, we demand of them wherefore they neglect the observance of their own laws, which they esteem so far superior to ours ?
Time is the surest touchstone in all human cases ; nor is there a more convincing proof of the goodness of a law than the antiquity of it. We therefore cast our cause upon that issue for the honour of our legislator, and of the laws themselves with regard
to God's holy worship. It will be granted us that Moses was the first legislator for many ages, and that as our laws had their origin thence, so they were followed and imitated, more or less, by all other nations. That the generality of the ancient Greeks had, in appearance, their own peculiar laws, I admit; but their philosophers held the same notions of the Deity with us, and inculcated the same doctrines of life and manners.
Such is the reputation we have held in the world for our religion and politics, that there is hardly any nation, either Greek or Barbarian, that does not act in some conformity to our example, either in the observance of our seventh day's Sabbath, the use of lamps, the celebration of fasts, or abstinence from certain ineats; as also in matters of humanity, charitable agreement in society, indefatigable labour and industry, aud an invincible constancy in suffering for the truth. In some of these particular instances they severally imitate us.
But the matter of greatest admiration is, that our laws have no baits of pleasure to allure men, but prevail through their own force, and seem to pervade the human mind as the Almighty pervades the universe. Those who look into their own country, or their own families will bear testimony to my assertion. Can there be any propriety then in the idea of changing our old laws for new ones? If not, let the reproach cease. We are not actuated by a malevolent and envious principle, but a veneration we have for the memory of our prophet, and in full persuasion of his divine authority. If we were not fully convinced of the intrinsic excellence of our laws, the great number of their admirers and professors would be sufficient to give us a high esteem for them. I have treated on this subject more copiously in my Antiquities, and therefore only hint now what is necessary for my present purpose, without any design of depreciating the laws of other nations, or making a panegyric upon those of our own, but solely for the vindication of truth against calumny and injustice.
To draw towards a conclusion: I presume I have sufficiently completed what I proposed in writing these books; for whereas our accusers have pretended that our nation is of late date, I have demonstrated the antiquity of their origin. I have likewise produced several eminent authorities, that make honourable mention VOL. IV.
of us in their annals. I have incontestibly refuted the assertion, that our ancestors came originally out of Egypt; and, with respect to the fable of our being expelled for epidemic maladies, I have rendered it evident, on the contrary, that they cut their way through troops of their enemies into their own country.There are those who asperse the character of Moses, in opposition to the concurrent testimony of several ages to his immortal honour.
In vindication of our laws, more words are superfluous. Those who read and understand them, must be convinced of the piety and wisdom of their institution. They are declared enemies to iniquity, luxury, and faction ; promoters of peace, charity, indus
try, and justice. They allow of no war founded on ambition or - avarice; nor do they approve of returning evil for evil. They
inspire valour and resolution in the defence of the dearest rights of mankind. They are vigorous in the punishment of malefactors; and point out that activos, not words, are the standard of merit.
From these premises I may justly conclude, that we have the most perfect laws extant. For what can be more excellent than anfeigned piety towards God? Wnat more reasonable than submission to laws ? What more beneficial than union in prosperity, and a well cemented friendship in adversity ? a dauntless resolution in arduous exploits ? a sedulous application to arts and husbandry in times of peace ? and finally, a perpetual consciousness of an omnipresent, omniscient, and superintending Providence ?
If these precepts had been written at first, or more exactly retained by any others before us, we should owe them thanks, as disciples owe their tutors. But if it is evident that we derived them from no foreign origin, and that the institution of them is our own; that, from time to time, we have handed them down, as the precise and invariable rules of our profession and practice, let Apion, Molon, and the whole tribe of calumniators and detractors, stand confuted. I have completed my design, in dedicating to thee, and others, most excellent Epaphroditus, an authentic history of our nation.
END OF JOSEPHUS IN ANSWER TO AFION,
MI A R T Y R D 0 M in ugha, OF THE
AS my design, in this discourse, is to show that reason is the perfection of wisdom, and ruler of the passions, when duly improved by study and religion, I cannot but exhort my readers to apply themselves, with the utmost assiduity, to the attainment of knowledge, the most important of all acquisitions. Reason is a necessary preliminary to knowledge, in which, if we excel, we may be said to excel in the noblest and most comprehensive of all virtues, which is prudence. It is reason alone that can effectually restrain the inordinate affections of the mind, correct the depravity of nature, and those corrupt inclinations which are opposed to the love and practice of virtue. That branch or degree of it which subdues the passions of anger, fear, and grief, and whatever else enervates the mind, may properly be denominated fortitude.
To this it may perhaps be objected, if reason has this dominion over the passions, or perturbations of the mind, why has it not the same controlling power over ignorance and forgetfulness ? This is a frivolous objection, and foreign to the case in point; for when we affirm that reason has a controlling power over the passions, we mean those defects of nature only as are opposite to justice, temperance, and fortitude, all which are of a distinct kind, and belonging to the sensitive soul; but not such as are defects peculiar to itself, and appertain to the rational system. Again,
in this objection the nature of this sovereignty is misrepresented ; for we do not mean that reason entirely removes those affections, but does not so far submit as to suffer itself to be vanquished by
That it is in the power of reason to command and subdue the passions, I could demonstrate by a variety of arguments, but shall, at present, confine myself to the most approved and undeniable one, matter of fact. I mean the example of persons who have signalized themselves in resolutely asserting and dying in defence of truth and virtue, among whom I apprehend none are more conspicuous, or more deservedly admired, than those of our country, Eleazar, and the seven brethren martyred with their mother.These, despising the most exquisite tortures, and persevering even unto death, have incontestibly proved the command of reason over the passions : I mean those of the sensitive kind, as before alluded to. I shall endeavour to give just commendations to these brave men, and their incomparable mother, for their imiroveable constaney; and to transmit their names with honour to posterity, for their steadfast adherence to virtue and their duty. These men excited the admiration not only of those who were indifferent spectators, or readers, of their sufferings, but even of their very enemies, and most prejudiced tormentors, who stood amazed at the courage and patience which their own implacable malice exercised after so inhuman and barbarous a manner. Thus they became the means of releasing their pation from oppression, conquering the rage of a tyrant by their sufferings, and becoming a sacrifice of expiation for their country.
The method in which I propose to proceed, will be, first, to make some general remarks on the point in debate, and then attend to this particular instance, giving glory to God, the fountain of wisdom, who hath been pleased to leave such undeniable evidence of this truth in the persons whose virtues I am now about to celebrate.
The question to be resolved is plainly this. Whether reason can control and govern the passions? In order thereto it will be necessary to explain what is to be understood by reason, what by passion, how many species there are of passions, and whether reason bears sway over them all.