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However, to make a further inquiry into the truth of this observation, I doubt not but there is reason to think that a great many of those encomiums given to ancient philosophers are taken upon trust, and by a sort of men who are not very likely to be at the pains of an inquiry that would employ so much time and thinking. For the usual ends why men affect this kind of discourse appear generally to be either out of ostentation, that they may pass upon the world for persons

of great knowledge and observation; or, what is worse, there are some who highly exalt the wisdom of those Gentile sages, thereby obliquely to glance at and traduce divine revelation, and more especially that of the gospel; for the consequence they would have us draw is this, that since those ancient philosophers rose to a greater pitch of wisdom and virtue than was ever known among Christians, and all this purely upon the strength of their own reason and liberty of thinking, therefore it must follow that either all revelation is false, or, what is worse, that it has depraved the nature of man, and left him worse than it found him.

But this high opinion of heathen wisdom is not very ancient in the world, nor at all countenanced from primitive times. Our Saviour had but a low esteem of it, as appears by his treatment of the Pharisees and Sadducees, who followed the doctrines of Plato and Epicurus. St. Paul likewise, who was well versed in all the Grecian literature, seems very much to despise their philosophy, as we find in his writings, cautioning the Colossians to “ beware lest any man spoil them through philosophy and vain deceit.” And in another place he advises Timothy to "avoid profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called ; ” that is, not to introduce into the Christian doctrine the janglings of those vain philosophers which they would pass upon the world for science. And the reasons he gives are, first, that those who possessed them did err concerning the faith ; secondly, because the knowledge of them did increase ungodliness, vain babblings being otherwise expounded vanities, or empty sounds; that is, tedious disputes about words, which the philosophers were always so full of, and which were the natural product of disputes and dissensions between several sects.

Neither had the primitive fathers any great or good opinion of the heathen philosophy, as is manifest from several passages in their writings; so that this vein of affecting to raise the reputation of those sages so high is a mode and a vice but of yesterday, assumed chiefly, as I have said, to disparage revealed knowledge, and the consequences of it among us.

Now, because this is a prejudice which may prevail with some persons, so far as to lessen the influence of the gospel; and whereas, therefore, this is an opinion which men of education are likely to be encountered with, when they have produced themselves into the world; I shall endeavour to show that their preference of heathen wisdom and virtue before that of the Christian is every way unjust, and grounded upon ignorance or mistake; in order to which, I shall consider four things :

First, I shall produce certain points wherein the wisdom and virtue of all unrevealed philosophy in general fell short and was very imperfect.

Secondly, I shall show, in several instances, where some of the most renowned philosophers have been grossly defective in their lessons of morality.

Thirdly, I shall prove the perfection of Christian wisdom from the proper

characters and marks of it. Lastly, I shall show that the great examples of wisdom and virtue among the heathen wise men were produced by personal merit, and not influenced by the doctrine of any sect, whereas in Christianity it is quite the contrary.

First, I shall produce certain points wherein the wisdom and virtue of all unrevealed philosophy in general fell short and was very imperfect.

My design is to persuade men that Christian philosophy is in all things preferable to heathen wisdom; from which, or its professors, I shall, however, have no occasion to detract. They were as wise and as good as it was possible for them to be under such disadvantages, and would have probably been infinitely more so with such aids as we enjoy ; but our lessons are certainly much better, however our practices may fall short.

The first point I shall mention is that universal defect which was in all their schemes, that they could not agree about their chief good, or wherein to place the happiness of mankind; nor had any of them a tolerable answer upon this difficulty to satisfy a reasonable person. For to say, as the most plausible of them did, “that happiness consisted in virtue,” was but vain babbling and a mere sound of words, to amuse others and themselves; because they were not agreed what this virtue was, or wherein it did consist; and likewise because several among the best of them taught quite different things, placing happiness in health or good fortune, in riches or in honour, where all were agreed that virtue was not, as I shall have occasion to show when I speak of their particular tenets.

The second great defect in the Gentile philosophy was, that it wanted some suitable reward proportioned to the better part of man, his mind, as an encouragement for his progress in virtue. The difficulties they met with upon the score of this default were great, and not to be accounted for; bodily goods, being only suitable to bodily wants, are no rest at all for the mind; and if they were, yet are they not the proper fruits of wisdom and virtue, being equally attainable by the ignorant and wicked. Now human nature is so constituted that we can never pursue any thing heartily but upon hopes of a reward. If we run a race, it is in expectation of a prize; and the greater the prize the faster we run; fòr an incorruptible crown, if we understand it, and believe it to be such, more than a corruptible one. But some of the philosophers gave all this quite another turn, and pretended to refine so far as to call virtue its own reward, and worthy to be followed only for itself; whereas if there be any thing in this more than the sound of the words, it is at least too abstracted to become a universal influencing principle in the world, and therefore could not be of gene

ral use.

It was the want of assigning some happiness proportioned to the soul of man that caused many of them, either on the one hand to be sour and morose, supercilious and untractable; or, on the other, to fall into the vulgar pursuits of common men, to hunt after greatness and riches, to make their court and to serve occasions, as Plato did to the younger Dionysius, and Aristotle to Alexander the Great. So impossible it is for a man who looks no further than the present world, to fix himself long in a contemplation where the present world has no part: he has no sure hold, no firm footing, he can never expect to remove the earth he rests upon while he has no support besides for his feet, but wants, like Archimedes, some other place whereon to stand. To talk of bearing pain and grief without any sort of present or future


hope cannot be purely greatness of spirit; there must be a mixture in it of affectation and an alloy of pride, or perhaps is wholly counterfeit.

It is true there has been all along in the world a notion of rewards and punishments in another life, but it seems to have rather served as an entertainment to poets, or as a terror of children, than a settled principle by which men pretended to govern any of their actions. The last celebrated words of Socrates, a little before his death, do not seem to reckon or build much upon any such opinion, and Cæsar mad scruple to disown it, and ridicule it in open senate.

Thirdly. The greatest and wisest of all their philosophers were never able to give any satisfaction to others and themselves in their notions of a Deity. They were often extremely gross and absurd in their conceptions, and those who made the fairest conjectures are such as were generally allowed by the learned, to have seen the system of Moses, if I may so call it, who was in great reputation at that time in the heathen world, as we find by Diodorus, Justin, Longinus, and other authors; for the rest, the wisest among them laid aside all notions after a Deity, as a disquisition vain and fruitless, which indeed it was upon unrevealed principles; and those who ventured to engage too far, fell into incoherence and confusion.

Fourthly. Those among them who had the justest conceptions of a Divine Power, and did also admit a providence, had no notion at all of entirely relying and depending upon either; they trusted in themselves for all things; but as for a trust or dependence upon God, they would not have understood the phrase, it made no part of the profane style.

Therefore it was that in all issues and events which they could not reconcile to their own sentiments of reason and justice they were quite disconcerted, they had no retreat; but upon every blow of adverse fortune, either affected to be indifferent or grew sullen and severe, or else yielded and sunk like other men.

Having now produced certain points wherein the wisdom and virtue of all unrevealed philosophy fell short and was very imperfect, I go on, in the second place, to show, in several instances, where some of the most renowned philosophers have been grossly defective in their lessons of morality.

Thales, the founder of the Ionic sect, so celebrated for morality,

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being asked how a man might bear ill fortune with greatest ease, answered, “By seeing his enemies in a worse condition.” An answer truly barbarous, unworthy of human nature, and which included such consequences as must destroy all society from the world.

Solon, lamenting the death of a son, one told him, “You lament in vain." Therefore,” said he, “I lament, because it is in vain.” This was a plain confession how imperfect all his philosophy was, and that something was still wanting. He owned that all his wisdom and morals were useless, and this upon one of the most frequent accidents in life. How much better could he have learned to support himself, even from David, by his entire dependence upon God; and that before our Saviour had advanced the notions of religion to the height and perfection wherewith he hath instructed his disciples !

Plato, himself, with all his refinements, placed happiness in wisdom, health, good fortune, honour, and riches, and held that they who enjoyed all these were perfectly happy; which opinion was indeed unworthy its owner, leaving the wise and good man wholly at the mercy of uncertain chance, and to be miserable without resource.

His scholar, Aristotle, fell more grossly into the same notion, and plainly affirmed, “ That virtue, without the goods of fortune, was not sufficient for happiness; but that a wise man must be miserable in poverty and sickness." Nay, Diogenes himself, from whose pride and singularity one would have looked for other notions, delivered it as his opinion, “ That a poor old man was the most miserable thing in life.”

Zeno, also, and his followers, fell into many absurdities, among which nothing could be greater than that of maintaining all crimes to be equal; which, instead of making vice hateful, rendered it as a thing indifferent and familiar to all men.

Lastly, Epicurus had no notion of justice, but as it was profitable; and his placing happiness in pleasure, with all the advantages he could expound it by, was liable to very great exception: for although he taught that pleasure did consist in virtue, yet he did not any way fix or ascertain the boundaries of virtue as he ought to ha done, by which means he misled his followers into the greatest vices, making their names to become odious and scandalous, even in the heathen world.

I have produced these few instances, from a great many others, to

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